The 2017 hurricane season is one for the record books. The National Hurricane Center has described it as an “extremely active season,” for it has produced more major hurricanes than any season since 2005. There have so far been 15 named storms – and the season doesn’t end until November 30.
A storm is a weather event in which the wind speed exceeds 39 miles per hour (mph). A storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed exceeds 74 mph. Hurricanes, as many people now know, are further categorized by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale that ranks hurricanes by their sustained wind speed from Category 1 to Category 5. A major hurricane is Category 3 or above.
So far, there have been ten hurricanes, with the first, Franklin, forming on August 7. Six of those ten, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, Maria and Ophelia were major hurricanes.
Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, was the first major hurricane of the season, and it made landfall on August 25 near Corpus Christie, Texas. It then went back into the Gulf Coast, where it picked up a lot more moisture. Harvey then made a second landfall near Louisiana’s border and dumped over four feet of rain on Houston and the surrounding area. Harvey is thus the worst rainfall disaster in US history. Most of the 82 people who perished had died trying to escape the flooding.
Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia all developed in the Atlantic basin at more or less the same time. The last season to have three simultaneous hurricanes was 2010. The current season, however, stepped up its game by being the first recorded to have two Category 4+ hurricanes developing together. It set another record by having three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Jose) in a row.
Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, was one of the most powerful storms in history with a sustained windspeed of 185. After thrashing several Caribbean islands, it made landfall on Florida on September 10 as a Category 4 storm. It plowed through the entire state and did not dissipate until reaching Georgia. Roughly 95 of the buildings on the islands Barbuda and St. Martin were destroyed.
Hurricane Jose, a Category 4 storm, never made landfall. Instead, it tore up along the US East Coast bringing powerful winds, heavy rain and dangerous surf.
Hurricane Katia was the weakest of the trio of hurricanes and made landfall on Mexico as a Category 1 storm on September 8. Three people were still killed.
Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, demolished many of the same Caribbean islands that had been struck by Irma a few weeks earlier. It destroyed Puerto Rico’s electric grid leaving the entire island without power.
The most recent major hurricane, Ophelia, was a Category 3 storm that brushed by Spain, stirring up wildfires, before making landfall on Ireland on October 16. The last time an equally powerful hurricane hit Ireland was in 1961.