By Jim Hudgins


After an active 2008 hurricane season, the forecast for the upcoming 2009 season is for another busy one with early forecasts from Colorado State University predicting 14 named storms including 7 hurricanes and 3 major (category 3-4-5) hurricanes.  This follows the 2008 season which produced 16 named storms (Fig 1), of which 8 were hurricanes with 5 reaching major status. A normal season has 9 to 12 named storms, with 5 to 7 making hurricane strength, and 1 to 3 major hurricanes.

The season officially started on June 1 and ended on November 30 as seen via the attached timeline (Fig 2). However the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur caused the season to start a couple days early. The 2008 season is the third most costly on record, behind only the 2004 and 2005 seasons, with over $41 billion in damage.  It was the fourth busiest year since 1944 and the only year on record in which a major hurricane existed in every month from July through November in the Atlantic. Bertha became the longest lived July tropical cyclone on record for the basin, the first of several long-lived systems during 2008. The season was devastating for Haiti, where over 800 people were killed by four consecutive tropical cyclones (Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike) in August and September. Hurricane Ike was the most destructive storm of the season, as well as the strongest, devastating Cuba as a major hurricane and later making landfall near Galveston, Texas at Category 2 intensity.

Other notable storms in the year included Tropical Storm Arthur, which marked the first recorded time the Atlantic saw a named storm form in May in consecutive years, Tropical Storm Fay, which became the first Atlantic tropical cyclone to make landfall in the same U.S. state (Florida) on 4 separate occasions; Tropical Storm Marco, the smallest Atlantic tropical cyclone recorded since 1988, Hurricane Omar, a powerful late-season major hurricane which caused moderate damage to  Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in mid-October; and Hurricane Paloma, which became the second strongest November hurricane in recorded history and caused about $2 billion in damage to the Cayman Islands as well as Cuba. The only storm of the season to not reach tropical storm status, Tropical Depression Sixteen, caused significant flooding in Central America which killed more than 75 people and caused at least $150 million in damages.

Only two systems 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.

Storm names for the upcoming 2009 season include: Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika,
Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam,
Teresa, Victor, and Wanda.

Tropical storm tracks from 2008
Fig 1.  Tropical storm tracks from 2008.


2008 Tropical storm timeline
Fig 2. 2008 Tropical storm timeline.