Why the Gulf is getting hammered in this record hurricane season but the East Coast has been spared

By Anthony R. Wood, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Weather News

PHILADELPHIA - When Hurricane Delta smashed ashore along the Louisiana coast at 6 p.m. Friday it became the 10th tropical storm to make landfall in the United States in 2020, breaking a record that had survived more than a century.

It was the seventh storm to land on the Gulf shores, which have been a tropical-storm punching bag in this ultra-busy and peculiar season. It also was the second significant hurricane in six weeks to target the same region of southwestern Louisiana. Its predecessor, Hurricane Laura, was blamed for 14 deaths.

By comparison, the Atlantic Coast has been showered with luck. And in a historically active hurricane season, so have U.S. taxpayers.

Taken together, the collective U.S. damage caused by all 25 storms this season likely won't come close to matching those of individual catastrophic storms that caused massive destruction in highly populated areas such as Katrina, in 2005, and Sandy, in 2012.

Only one 2020 hurricane, Isaias, has made landfall on the Eastern seaboard, and that was only a Category 1, with top winds of 85 mph when it reached the southern coast of North Carolina.

Right about now, residents along the southwestern Louisiana coast could use more than good luck.


Hurricanes have a tendency to pick on a given region in given seasons. In the late 1990s, North Carolina was a favored target. This year, it has been the Gulf region.

One factor has been the generally quite-warm Gulf water temperatures, which have been supplying the storm fuel, said Dan Kottlowski, hurricane specialist with AccuWeather Inc.

But the big drivers have been persistent steering winds in the upper atmosphere. Storms have been riding the circulation around high pressure centered in the North Atlantic.

Winds blow clockwise around centers of high pressure, thus east-to-west on their southern flanks. "It just so happens that this high has been nosing westward this year," Kottlowski added, directing storms into the Gulf.


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