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The Hurricane Onslaught

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The Hurricane Onslaught

Quick facts, stats, and some personal thoughts from fellow UVA students

Ashley Morris

9.18.17

The coastal states of the South and the islands of the Atlantic are no stranger to intense storms - Katrina, Sandy, and Ike are just some of the dozens of hurricanes to make an entrance within the past decade. But in the current Atlantic hurricane season, which typically runs from June 1st to November 30th, the US has seen a startling succession of storms: first hurricane Harvey, Irma, and now Jose.

Hurricane season peaks in September, so experts say these sort of patterns aren't uncommon. The graphic below, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, illustrates this trend:
Below I delve into some specifics on each of those three storms, complete with a path map, storm timeline, and brief stats list. Keep reading to get a personal perspective on the storms from several UVA students who are from Florida and Texas.

QUICK FACTS and STATS


Hurricane Harvey

Harvey, in short, was a nasty surprise. After rapidly gaining strength in the warm waters of the Gulf, it shot into the coast of Texas and left flooding, building damage, and displaced people in its wake. While the numbers aren't fully in yet, Harvey is being labeled the second costliest US hurricane of all time, behind Katrina ($160 billion), with predicted damage totaling near $85 billion.


Timeline
  • August 17th: Formed as a tropical storm approx. 250 east of Barbados
  • August 23rd: Enters Gulf of Mexico as tropical depression
  • August 24th-25th: Transforms from tropical storm to a CAT 4, sustaining winds at approx. 135 mph
  • August 26th-30th: Weakens rapidly and remains over Victoria, TX before moving back into the Gulf
  • August 30th: Makes landfall again as tropical storm over Louisiana
  • September 2nd-3rd: System dies out over Eastern US

Statistics
  • In 56 hours, Harvey went from a tropical depression to a CAT 4 hurricane
  • 39.72 inches of rain fell over Dayton, Texas from the 24th to the 28th
  • Harvey is the first major (>= CAT 3) tropical system to make landfall in the US in 12 years (the last was Hurricane Wilma)

Hurricane Irma

Irma is arguably going to go down in history as one of the most infamous hurricanes of modern times, namely for it's record-setting intensity and path of destruction. Damage totals predict near $58 billion in the US for losses; however, it could potentially become the costliest hurricane of all time when predicted totals of non-US Caribbean islands are included.


Timeline
  • August 30th: Formed as a tropical storm approx. 450 mi west of Cape Verde Islands
  • August 31st-September 5th: Gains strength, becoming a CAT 5 hurricane w/ sustained winds at 185 mph, <100 miles east of Antigua
  • September 5th-8th: Ravages eastern Caribbean islands, including Barbuda, Puerto Rico, and the British and US Virgin Islands, maintains CAT 5 power
  • September 8th-9th: Follows north coast of Cuba, makes landfall as CAT 5, turns north as CAT 3 to FL
  • September 9th-11th: Restrengthens to CAT 4 w/ 130 mph winds before slamming Key West, FL - weakens to CAT 1 following path through Naples, Fort Meyers, and east of Tampa
  • September 11th-12th: Continues course north into GA, weakens to tropical depression over Columbus

Statistics
  • Longest CAT 5 hurricane on record - lasted 3 consecutive days
  • Approx. 36 hours with sustained winds of at least 185 mph, longest time period on record
  • As of 9/12, 6.2 million FL customers are without power, 1.3 million in GA, and several tens of thousands more in NC, SC, and AL

Hurricane Jose

While at first showing off a strong start, then weakening while veering off into the Atlantic, Jose rallied back towards the east coast for a threatening display of rip currents and dangerous surfs. Jose is expected to move directly north, coming closest to Massachusetts (prediction shown in red below).


Timeline
  • September 5th: Formed as a tropical storm
  • September 6th-9th: Reaches CAT 4 status, scrapes approx. 50 miles off the coast of Barbuda and Antigua
  • September 10th-12th: Reduces in strength to CAT 1 while moving NW towards the US East Coast
  • September 12th: Continuing to weaken and moving east into the Atlantic
  • September 15th-17th: Storm makes sudden turn back towards US East Coast, restrengthening to a CAT 1
  • September 18th-present: Models show movement directly north, several hundreds miles of NE coast

Statistics
  • 4th significant storm to form on the eastern side of North America in the past month
  • ...we'll have to wait and see

When the Hurricane Hits Home


While UVA and the state of Virginia avoided the wrath of these devastating hurricanes, many students who are from the affected areas are still feeling the pressure from hundreds of miles away. I had the opportunity of knowing several people from the state of Florida and Texas, each with their own personal story for how their families prepared for the storms.

The following statements are from UVA students Josh H., Julia B., Megan M., Laurie F., (FL) and Katharine P. (TX), when asked questions about the recent hurricanes. These mini-interviews occurred on the days between Sept. 8th and 11th.

Have you experienced a hurricane in the past? If so, which one(s)?
  • Josh: I've lived in FL for Frances, Jeanne, and Wilma. [Frances and Jeanne] completely wrecked my hometown, Vero Beach. I was out of school for almost three weeks combined from those two hurricanes. We're usually in a mandatory evacuation zone since we live on Florida's barrier island.
  • Julia: The first one I can remember was Frances. I live on the east coast, where it was expected to make landfall, so my family decided to evacuate. Our evacuation plans consisted of us riding out the storm on the west coast near Tampa. What we didn't realize was that Frances was so large that it literally covered the entire state, so we felt nearly the same effects as if we had just stayed home.
  • Megan: I've been through 5 "major" hurricanes and tons of tropical storms. The major hurricanes were Jeanne, Dennis, Wilma, Ivan, and Charley. The worst ones were Wilma and Charley.
  • Laurie: To be honest, I was too young to remember which ones I experienced. I live in northern Florida so they often didn't reach that far anyway.
  • Katharine: Yes, I experienced hurricane Ike in 2008.

How did your family prepare from the intensity of Irma/Harvey?
  • Josh: My parents have prepared for the worst. They headed north with all of our cars and all of our valuables inside of them. We've shuttered the house in areas that doesn't have impact glass, but we carry pretty significant hurricane insurance too.
  • Julia: My parents have actually been in Michigan for the past few weeks, so they are already essentially evacuated. They've received help moving anything that could be caught up in the wind, like smaller potted plants or patio furniture, into the garage.
  • Megan: My family decided not to evacuate because they're would be no point unless you got out of the state. My mom filled up the gas tanks in all of our cars, bought as much water as she could get her hands on, and my dad put up hurricane shutters and cut low tree branches around our house.
  • Laurie: My family and many of my friends chose to stay in Florida. In preparation, they have quite a few reusable containers filled up with water for themselves and my dog, and they have a few portable phone chargers. While millions of people are evacuating or have evacuated Florida, many are staying and not all by choice.
  • Katharine: My family stocked up on food and water and made sure we had batteries for flashlights in case of a power outage.

If you'd like to help those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, these students have several suggestions:
  • Look into helping nationally AND internationally
  • Review crisis & rescue organizations for financial legitimacy before donating
  • Support your local police, and fire and rescue

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Thank you for reading!
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Sources:
AccuWeather, Inc.
Bloomberg L.P.
Cable News Network (CNN)
National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service (NOAA)
The Weather Company - The Weather Channel
Named UVA Students
Thumbnail image - The New York Times