The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the impacts of Laura and Sally

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season and the impacts of Laura and Sally

Breanna Moore, Layout and Design Manager

From record high temperatures to a rare derecho blowing through the midwest, the weather in 2020 has been impactful and very eventful. The 2020 hurricane season is certainly no exception. With the official season spanning from June 1 until Nov. 30, there has been a large number of cyclones forming in the Atlantic since before hurricane season even began with the first one appearing on May 16. Having 20 named storms; this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is the second most active ever recorded, following up on the 2005 hurricane season. As of Sept. 17, there have been 22 tropical cyclones, 20 tropical storms, eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes. 

One of the biggest and most severe hurricanes that have impacted the U.S. so far this year has been Hurricane Laura, the twelfth named storm of the year. Forming on Aug. 20, Laura travelled over Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cayman islands on its way into the Gulf of Mexico. As the storm continued on its path, it grew in strength and size, inevitably becoming an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane. It was on Aug. 27 that Laura had made landfall in the U.S., hitting Louisiana during the peak of its strength. With a storm surge of what was estimated to be between 12 to 21 feet even before the storm’s arrival, it was labeled as “unsurvivable” by the National Hurricane Center. Hurricane Laura produced sustained wind speeds of up to 150 mph, and landed a spot as the tenth strongest hurricane to strike the U.S. by wind speed on record. 

Hurricane Laura took the lives of 72 people during the storms rampage, and 37 of those individuals were in the U.S. The total cost of damages caused by the storm ended up being over $10.1 billion. The impacts of Laura and the storm’s overall strength was compared to that of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the Southern states in 2005. Some of the impacts of Hurricane Laura include extensive severe flooding, fallen trees, damage to RV’s and mobile homes, two train derailments, and roof damage to homes. On the west side of Lake Charles in Louisiana, a chlorine leak started a large chemical fire. In downtown Lake Charles, the Capital One Tower received significant damage from the high wind speeds blowing out many of the building windows. 

Just a few weeks after the disaster of Hurricane Laura, another storm began forming near the Bahamas. On Sept. 11, the tropical depression that would become Hurricane Sally was heading towards the southernmost part of Florida. The next day, as it travelled near Miami, the depression strengthened and was labeled a tropical storm. As the week progressed, the storm became a strong Category 1 hurricane that was given the name Sally. 

As Sally migrated through the Gulf of Mexico, the storm began going through periods of weakening and strengthening. Meteorologists started feeling concerned as Hurricane Sally began to slow down significantly, traveling at speeds as low as 2 mph. Due to the slow-moving pace of the hurricane, the more time that it had over the open ocean allowed it to gain in strength and to potentially possess the ability to create mass amounts of rainfall. Eventually, Sally’s strength increased to such a level that it became a Category 2 hurricane as it reached the U.S. shores.

On Sept. 16, Hurricane Sally made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala. The storm made its landfall on the 16-year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, a strong Category 3 cyclone that made landfall on the same day in the same location back in 2004. Hurricane Sally brought a storm surge of 6 feet, gusts of wind of up to 123 mph and 30 inches of rainfall. As officials are continuing to access the damage done by the hurricane, the cost of damage is estimated to be at least over $5 billion. Sally damaged many homes and condos, a pier in Gulf Shores that was previously destroyed by hurricane Ivan, and left a section of the Three Mile Bridge missing in Pensacola, Fla. As of Sept. 17, the total number of fatalities caused by Hurricane Sally was five, with one person still considered missing. 

As of Sept. 18, there were three named storms that could cause potential threats; Tropical Storm Wilfred in the Mid-Atlantic, Tropical Storm Beta in the Gulf of Mexico, and Category 3 Hurricane Teddy, which could potentially pose a threat to Canada. With a couple more months left in the 2020 hurricane season, it appears that the storms will not be slowing down any time soon. Be sure to check your local weather services for updates on the weather nearby and throughout the country.

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