It’s now officially the beginning of the summer season in the northern hemisphere. It’s also the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season. On average, we see 10 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or the Gulf of Mexico each season. However, because of the developing El Niño over the next month or so, we expect few storms because of the increased wind shear over the water and weaker west winds high in the atmosphere. That being said, we are seeing record warm sea surface temperatures right now and tropical systems love warm water.
Georgia has seen its fair share of impacts from tropical systems. July 4, 1994, Tropical Storm Alberto stalled across the area, bringing incredible amounts of rain. I remember reporting on some rainfall amounts of 25 inches in less than 24 hours! Thirty-four people were killed and more than 50,000 were displaced from their homes. What I remember the most was one specific incident where more than 400 coffins were forced from their water-logged graves and sent floating down flooded streets. It was one of the eeriest things I’ve ever seen during my career at WSB-TV.
In September of 1999, Hurricane Floyd bore down on us and the Carolinas. Damage was extensive. Here in north Georgia we were dealing with many tornadoes, spinning up in some of the outer bands of the storm.
On August 29, 2005, we took at direct hit from one of the strongest hurricanes on record. Bands of extreme rain, hurricane force winds, and a record 18 tornadoes touched down when Hurricane Katrina passed over north Georgia. And these were just the “remnants” of the storm. Two people were killed and many homes and businesses were under water from their flooding rain. You may remember the price of gas rising to more than $6 per gallon as a result of panic after the oil pumps along the gulf coast were destroyed or damaged. In addition, Georgia became the destination of more than 100,000 evacuees from the Gulf States.
With all of these storms the impact on Lake Lanier was staggering. The run-off of animal feces and pesticides from the flooding rain caused catastrophic rises in e Coli bacteria in the lake. With each storm, the lake was non-useable for many, many weeks.
The bottom line for us this season will be fewer storms when La Lina forms. However, with the ocean temperatures at record levels, any storms that do form, have the potential to become enormous.
Look to the Gulf of Mexico this month for storm formation. In July, watch the Caribbean Sea. When we get to August and September, watch the eastern Atlantic. This is where the big ones usually form. By October, the pattern once again shifts to the Gulf of Mexico.
Here are the names of the storms this season from the National Hurricane Center: