Monday, December 01, 2008

Hurricane Fay in 2008

The 2008 Hurricane Season in Atlantic officially come to an end yesterday. According to the detailed look by Steve Lyons of the Weather Channel here, this season:
. . . produced a record number of consecutive storms to strike the United States and ranks as one of the more active seasons in the 64 years since comprehensive records began.

A total of 16 named storms formed this season, based on an operational estimate by NOAA's National Hurricane Center. The storms included eight hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher. These numbers fall within the ranges predicted in NOAA's pre- and mid-season outlooks issued in May and August. The August outlook called for 14 to 18 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes. An average season has 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

"This year's hurricane season continues the current active hurricane era and is the tenth season to produce above-normal activity in the past 14 years," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

What I found it was most interesting and unique was the fact that Fay happens to be the only storm on record that was making landfall four times in the state of Florida, and to prompt tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for the state's entire coastline (at various times during its August lifespan) as detailed in Wikipedia, it came across Cuba and then:

made landfall on the Florida Keys late in the afternoon of August 18 before veering into the Gulf of Mexico. It again made landfall near Naples, Florida in the early hours of August 19 and progressed northeast through the Florida peninsula, emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne on August 20. Extensive flooding took place in parts of Florida as a result of its slow movement. On August 21, it re-entered near Daytona Beach, moving due west across the Panhandle, crossing Gainesville and Panama City, Florida. As it zigzagged from water to land, it became the first storm in recorded history to make landfall in Florida four times.

Here's a part of the track of Hurricand Fay:

My daughter and her family live in central Florida. I usually pay close attention to the hurricane tracks during the season especially the ones going through Florida. I remember Fay, and I was somewhat pleased and marveled at the time to see that Fay seemed to be determined to bypass and avoid the central Florida area. I doubt any of the major models can ever be able to predict the kind of twist and turns of Hurricane Fay demonstrated in 2008.


Here's another season summary from Jared Halpern, a TV reporter of WOKV in Jacksonville, Florida provides another general perspective:

The 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season is over, but for thousands of First Coast homeowners, the floods of Tropical Storm Fay and a handful of close calls will linger for a lifetime.

"I think the lesson we learned from Fay is that every tropical cyclone has to be treated with respect," National Weather Service meteorologist Steve Letro said. "It taught us a real lesson with the problems we can have with just a tropical storm, something that never reaches hurricane strength, if it sticks around long enough...and drops enough rainfall."

Tropical Storm Fay made four separate Forida landfalls between August 18 and 24, baffling even the most seasoned forecasters. In addition, several other storms had sights set to Florida before moving away. Category 4 storms Ike and Gustav both had initial tracks pushing the hurricanes into Florida.

"We're going to look back on this season and say 'we didn't have much besides Fay,'" Letro said. "But those near-misses were certainly there."

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