2017 Florida Weather Highlights
After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season after a few quiet years.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
Though the official hurricane season runs from June to November, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in April/May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January.
In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May. In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May. This year, Arlene formed in April.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
Hurricane predictions for 2017
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University made their first predictions for the 2017 hurricane season in April. They forecast a below average season with up to 11 named storms, four of them hurricanes of which two could become a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater with sustained winds of 111 mph or more).
This was due to the reduced likelihood of a significant Pacific weather system known as El Niño, coupled with cooler Atlantic water temperatures.
Colorado issued a revised forecast at the beginning of June and increased their forecast numbers to 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. They further increased the number of hurricanes to eight in July.
They predicted that there is a 55% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the entire United States coastline during 2017 (average is 52%) with a 33% chance (average is 31%) for the eastern Florida peninsula and a 32% chance (average is 30%) for the Gulf Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions at the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August. This year in May they predicted an above average season with a 70% chance of an estimated 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes of which between two and four could be major hurricanes. This again puts their worst case scenario ahead of Colorado State University.
NOAA made their revised forecast in early August and they have increased their figures slightly to predict a 70% chance of there being 14 to 19 named storms, five to nine hurricanes of which two to five could be major hurricanes.
This could make 2017 the most active season since 2010.
AccuWeather.com normally produce their forecast around the middle of May and this year is predicting only 10 named storms with five hurricanes of which three could become major hurricanes. They also predict three named storms could make landfall in the USA.
Tropical Storm Risk is predicting higher numbers with 14 named storms and six hurricanes of which three could become major.
Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting nine to 13 named storms including three to six hurricanes of which two or three could be major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2017
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen for all named storms. Names are often re-used but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2017 are as follows:
Arlene formed well before the official start of the hurricane season on Wednesday, April 19, southwest of the Azores and became a tropical storm on the following day. By April 21 it had reached wind speeds of 50 mph but it quickly dissipated.
Tropical Storm Bret formed in the Atlantic southeast of the island of Trinidad on Monday, June 19. It started moving quickly west northwest tracking north of Venezuela towards Nicaragua but quickly deteriorated.
Tropical Storm Cindy formed in the Gulf of Mexico just a day after Tropical Storm Bret. It started tracking northwest towards the coast of Texas and Louisiana with wind speeds of 45 mph. It strengthened to about 60 mph. On Thursday, June 22 it came ashore in southwest Louisiana as a Tropical Depression and was responsible for at least one death in Alabama.
Tropical Storm Don formed east of the Windward Islands and started tracking westwards at 20 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph. It continued tracking westwards, north of the Venezuelan coastline before breaking up.
It was not a threat to the USA.
Tropical Storm Emily formed in the Gulf of Mexico on Monday, July 31 around 65 miles WNW of Sarasota. It quickly made landfall near Bradenton with wind speeds of 40 mph as it tracked eastwards across Central Florida at 9 mph bringing heavy rain (up to 8 inches) to the Tampa Bay area.
It weakened slightly over land before strengthening again as it passed into Atlantic waters with wind speeds of 60 mph.
The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency in 31 counties.
Like Emily, Tropical Storm Franklin also formed in the Gulf of Mexico. It appeared off the Honduras coastline late on Sunday, August 6 and tracked west-northwest towards the Yucatan Peninsula at 13 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
After crossing the Yucatan Peninsula it strengthened as it headed out into the Bay of Campeche with wind speeds of 60 mph. It was expected to reach hurricane status (the first of the season) by the time it made land for a second time near Lechuguillas, Veracruz early Thursday morning. In fact it reached wind speeds of 75 mph as a category 1 hurricane.
Once over land for a second time, it started to dissipate rapidly but then regenerated into Tropical Storm Jova as crossed into the Eastern Pacific.
Tropical Storm Gert formed east of the Bahamas and 525 miles southwest of Bermuda on Sunday, August 13 and started moving north northwest at 13 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph. By Monday, August 14 wind speeds had increased to 60 mph as it tracked northwards between Bermuda and the Atlantic coastline.
It was not expected to make landfall in the USA but was forecast to reach hurricane status as it continued to veer onto a north easterly course. Later that day it became a hurricane with wind speeds of 90 mph.
By Wednesday, August 16 it became a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 120 mph, peaking at 125 mph before weakening.
Tropical Storm Harvey formed around 365 miles east of Barbados with wind speeds of 50 mph and started tracking westwards at 18 mph. It passed close to Barbados and by Friday it was close to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
It is forecast to strengthen and skirt the northern shores of Honduras on Monday, August 21 before crossing the Yucatan Peninsula.