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2019 hurricane season: Four storms made landfall, with one paralyzing horror

Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post on

Published in Weather News

The 2019 hurricane season ended above average for the fourth year in a row with an abundance of fleeting systems gone in a blink and one paralyzing horror.

After the decay of Sebastien this week, the final tropical cyclone tally stood at 18 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. That's compared to an average season of 12 named storms.

It was the first time since 2012's Hurricane Sandy that a season spawned an "S" storm, and it broke a 2005 record for tropical storms that lived 24 hours or less with seven -- a conspicuous landmark some scientists attribute to ever-better technology, allowing forecasters to see the guts of a storm like never before.

"I think it's pretty remarkable," said Florida International University associate meteorology professor Haiyan Jiang, about the number of pop-up systems this year. "There were so many storms, and 40% were short-lived."

Four storms made landfall in the U.S. during the 2019 season. Barry breached Louisiana's coast as a Cat 1 hurricane July 13; Tropical Storm Imelda hit near Freeport, Texas on Sept. 17; Nestor made landfall near St. Vincent Island on Florida's Panhandle as a post-tropical cyclone Oct. 19; and Cat 1 Hurricane Dorian arrived at Cape Hatteras, N.C. on Sept. 6.

But it was Hurricane Dorian's earlier manifestation that left Florida holding its breath and the northern Bahamas reeling.

 

Dorian reached Grand Bahama on Sept. 1, making landfall as a Cat 5 storm with 185-mph sustained winds. It would remain nearly stationary through Tuesday. That's an astonishing 36 hours that Dorian raged over Grand Bahama Island nearly unmoving as a Cat 5 or Cat 4 hurricane.

Dorian peak winds were outdone only by 1980's Hurricane Allen, which had 190-mph winds, and tied with the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, Gilbert (1988) and Wilma (2005).

"In records going back over a century, there are no cases where an Atlantic Category 5 hurricane has impacted a land area for as long as Dorian battered the Bahamas," said Jeff Masters, a meteorologist who writes the Eye of the Storm column for Scientific American. "According to the Bahamas Department of Meteorology, Dorian brought a storm tide of 20 to 25 feet, and dropped an estimated three feet of rain over the Bahamas."

It was the fifth Cat 5 hurricane to form since 2016 -- the first time in history that so many Cat 5s occurred in a four-year period -- but the 2019 hurricane season wasn't over yet.

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