The 2011 Hurricane Season is in the Books

After 6 long months... the 2011 hurricane season is in the books. For the 1st time in 3 years a hurricane made landfall along the U.S. coast. How did this season stack up to a typical season?

Once again to the casual observer to the 2011 hurricane season might think it pretty quiet, but just like last year the 2011 season was actually very busy.

We ended up with 19 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.  Well, technically there were on 18named storms, but there was a mid-season storm that was 'upgraded' after the fact.  The storm was in early September and formed between Bermuda and Nova Scotia.  Also, Nate... originally just a tropical storm was upgraded after the fact to hurricane status.  Nate formed in September and impacted Mexico.

In the end the 2011 season was tied for the 3rd busiest on record.  It was tied with 1887, 1995, and 2010.  Hurricane Irene became the 1st hurricane to hit the U.S. since Ike in 2008.   Irene caused massive flooding from NC into the NE U.S.

The high number of named storms, was likely caused by warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and  La Niña.  Although we had a lot of storms... the # of hurricanes and major hurricanes were pretty close to average.  The reason appears to be because of stronger vertical wind shear, drier mid-level air and cooler subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

Although we continue to remain in a multi-decadal cycle of above average hurricane activity one reason we had so many storms compared to other years is technology.  With satellites we are now able to see everything and even infer data from what is going on inside the clouds from a storm way out to sea.  If we know we had 19 named storms in 1887... imagine how many actually formed that we did not know about!

In the end most of the seasonal hurricane forecasts ended up being pretty close.  The experts at Colorado State will release their 2012 forecast on December 7.  Of course, we will post that information as soon as it is released.

Whether we have 100 storms or just 1... it only takes 1 storm to have a very bad hurricane season.  Tropical Storm Lee was the only storm to impact us here in NWFL.  Lee formed on September 1 in the central Gulf of Mexico and slowly moved toward central Louisiana.  Lee topped out as a 60 mph tropical storm.  Despite making landfall hundreds of miles away, Lee brought heavy surf, rainfall (3-6"), and even some severe weather (70 mph wind gusts).  The chart below shows all the warnings issued by the National Weather Service over the Labor Day weekend as Lee impacted us.

For an excellent write up of Lee from the National Weather Service in Tallahassee check out this link.

As always, it is only a matter of time before a major hurricane once again impacts NWFL.  Rest assure, the VIPIR7 Weather Team will be ready.  If you ever have any questions about the weather do not hesitate to contact us.  As always, thanks for watching!




Chris Smith
Chief Meteorologist, WJHG-TV



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