Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hurricane Season 2014 Wrap Up

Folks who live away from the East or Gulf coasts may not care about this, but I keep track of the hurricane season activity.  Today is the last day of the season, and while I could have really written this at the end of October when Tropical Storm Hanna dissipated, it's best to get the whole season.  Although the predictions vary, NOAA's last prediction before the season (5/22) was eight to 13 tropical storms, including three to six hurricanes, only one or two of them major (with winds over 110 MPH).  There were eight tropical storms, six made it to hurricane status and two became major hurricanes.  One of those, Edouard, was Major for a few hours, while Gonzalo stayed a Major storm for days.  All things considered, their predictions were rather good. Those predictions have often tended to be good for a laugh after the season.
I've been a fan of Ryan Maue's Accumulated Cyclone Energy model since I ran across it a few years ago because I think by integrating both the intensity and the duration you get a better measure of a storm's impact, or potential impact.  Consider Edouard, which was a tropical storm for several days before becoming a hurricane and was a Major storm for one forecast period vs. Gonzalo which was a tropical storm for less time but a Major storm for a 3 1/2 days.  Both storms lasted about the same amount of time and both are counted as Major Hurricanes, but Edouard had an ACE of 15.35 while Gonzalo was the "worse" storm at an ACE of 25.365.  The ACE for the North Atlantic Basin for the year to date is 63% of climatological normal, another mild year.  (Last year was 30%).

One storm hit the US; Hurricane Arthur hit the outer banks of North Carolina on the July 4th weekend.  Florida has not had a hurricane since Wilma in 2005, a record for longest time since a hurricane made landfall in the state.

As I reported in October, it's beginning to look like the era of 'high spin cycle' tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin that started in 1995 has run its course.  If this is indeed the case, hurricanes in the North Atlantic will be less of a concern for next 20 years, allowing a lot more building along the coast, which will result in more damage in 30 years when the next Sandy hits and no one remembers what a hurricane was like. 

Hurricanes are good disasters for the lazy man, so I like them. There's no need to go get in line for plywood for your shutters, canned food or bottled water or any of that. All of it is stuff you can prepare for months or years in advance. Yeah, you have to go put up the shutters and do some stuff in advance of the storm, but you sure don't need to be in line at stores. Or in line at a FEMA tractor trailer afterwards.


  1. You are correct in that the real message from Sandy was that we should not allow building on low lying coastal areas along the entire East coast. I grew up near Boston and I can remember killer hurricanes in the late 40's the 50's and early 60's. The cyclical nature of hurricanes makes it easy if you aren't paying attention to delude yourself into thinking that they are no big deal. I could say the same thing about cooling and warming cycles. They tend to last 10, 15 20 years and then cycle to the opposite direction for 15-20 years.

  2. There really isn't a problem with building on storm-susceptible coastal areas, the problem stems from insuring those structures.

    Eliminate the process of exchanging inordinately low annual premiums and deductibles for full price rebuilding and the problem ceases to exist because only those who can afford to rebuild will build in the first place.

    That might not keep hotel chains off the beach, but it would either move them farther back or change the construction techniques, or both. Limiting construction to only roads for 1 kilometer inland from the high tide line would solve almost everyone's problem, except for the politicians who want to spend the high taxes those structures generate.