ACTIVE TROPICS MAKE MORE OF AN IMPACT IN 2008

by James Hudgins

After a very active 2007 hurricane season especially across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in particular, 2008 has proven to be just as active so far with 11 named storms (Fig. 1) to date including 6 hurricanes. Of these 6 hurricanes, 3 (Bertha, Gustav and Ike) reached major (category 3-4-5) hurricane status. Both Gustav and Ike achieved Category 4 levels before striking the Gulf Coast region where they caused significant loss of life and billions of dollars in property damage. Damage from Ike was so extensive that it will likely end up being the third most destructive U.S. hurricane on record behind Katrina and Andrew.  The Gulf Coast so far has experienced the brunt of the stronger activity with Hurricane Dolly, Tropical Storm Edouard and Ike all making landfall in Texas. Other storms including Gustav impacted western Louisiana, while slow moving Tropical Storm Fay zig zagged across Florida for a few days making landfall a record 4 times. Several other unique records have already been established in the 2008 season. These include the first time that a named system had formed in May for two consecutive years (Tropical Storm Arthur), and the longest lived tropical storm in July (Bertha) for the Atlantic Basin. While the U.S. has seen its share of impacts from these tropical systems, many of the islands across the Caribbean have had multiple contacts with several of these storms.  This would include the island of Haiti where hundreds of people were killed by four straight tropical cyclones (Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike) in August and September.

Only two systems have thus far had an impact on the local area with the remnant low of Tropical Storm Fay passing just west of the Appalachians toward the end of August, and Tropical Storm Hanna moving through extreme eastern Virginia in early September. Moisture from Fay did bring some of the most widespread heavy rain seen in a while, with upwards of a foot of rain over the North Carolina Mountains, and 4 to 10 inches in spots along the Blue Ridge in Virginia.  This rainfall resulted in some flash flooding across southern Virginia as well as northwest North Carolina where several roads were inundated. Hanna was a much stronger system as compared to Fay when it crossed through eastern Virginia after making landfall along the North Carolina/South Carolina border. However the rapid movement of this system limited the period of very heavy rain to only a few hours during the morning hours of September 6th. Rainfall from Hanna was the heaviest across the piedmont and foothills where between 4 and 7 inches of rain fell, with locations west of the Blue Ridge seeing little if any rainfall.  This rain following in the wake of Fay’s rainfall, produced additional flash flooding across the piedmont with some minor river flooding along the Dan River at South Boston.

The updated forecast for the remainder of the tropical season which runs through the end of November calls for a few additional named storms of which a couple could reach major (category 3-4-5) hurricane status across the Atlantic Basin.  A brief summary of the highlights of the 2008 season thus far follows below:

 

2008 Atlantic hurricane season
through Oct 6th

First system formed:

May 30, 2008

Total named storms:

11

Total hurricanes:

6

Major hurricanes (Cat. 3+):

3

Strongest storm:

Ike - 27.47 inches, 145 mph

Number of systems making landfall:

7

Total damage:

$48.6 billion

Confirmed fatalities:

848 direct, 92 indirect

(Fig. 1). 2008 tropical storm and hurricane tracks (to date as of October 6).