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We are still about a month away from the end of the 2020 hurricane season. Yet, we’ve had several major storms that have wreaked havoc on the US. Some of the most affected areas were within the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. Hurricane season takes place between June 1, and November 30. 2020 has been a serious and record-breaking year for the frequency of storms, however, this is the first in four years that we have not seen a category five hurricane develop.
The 2020 hurricane season has resulted in a total of twenty-six named storms. Nine of those storms have become hurricanes:
Of those hurricanes, Laura, Teddy, and Delta became major storms. This means they were category 3 or stronger. To provide some perspective, a typical year has twelve named storms. Of those twelve, six will become hurricanes, and three would be major hurricanes.
This year, ten named storms made landfall in the United States. Nine of these affected the continental United States. There were several records broken this year, starting with tropical storm Edouard. Edouard was the earliest fifth Atlantic named storm. This streak continued all the way through Epsilon, which was the earliest formed twenty-sixth storm.
This was the sixth year in a row that the hurricane season began early. A tropical storm Arthur formed on May 16 in the Atlantic Ocean, east of Florida, well before the beginning of the season on June 1st.
The 2020 hurricane season timeline
July 24th, Hurricane Hanna was the first hurricane of the 2020 season. The storm developed around Corpus Christi, Texas in the Gulf of Mexico in late July. It made landfall on Padre Island, Texas as a strong Category 1, then moved to Kennedy County. The storm resulted in heavy rain and flash flooding, with some areas receiving more than a foot of rain. There was also extensive property damage, especially in Texas. By the end, Hanna was estimated to have resulted in $875 million in damages.
July 30th, Hurricane Isaias first made landfall in the Bahamas as a Category 1. It then calmed down and re-intensified to make a second landfall as a Category 1 on the coast of North Carolina. Isaias caused major damage as a hurricane and sparked a large tornado outbreak. In fact, Isaias generated the strongest tropical cyclone-spawned tornado since 2005. At least 9 deaths are attributed to Hurricane Isaias. This hurricane cost over $5.225 billion in damage overall, with over $5 billion in the US alone. This made Isaias the most expensive tropical cyclone to affect the Northeastern US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
August 21st, Hurricane Laura was both deadly and destructive and was classified as a major storm. It made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm and proceeded to cause the deaths of around 77 people. Laura caused $14 billion in damages to Southwestern Louisiana and Texas, along with the loss of life. To make matters worse, Hurricane Marco was threatening the Gulf Coast as well at the same time as Hurricane Laura. Fortunately, Hurricane Marco reverted to a tropical storm. It lost steam after making landfall at the mouth of the Mississippi River. But, it still caused around $35 million in damages.
September 1st, Hurricane Nana ultimately missed the US. But, it caused around $20 million in damages to Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras. Hurricane Paulette also missed the US. It only affected Bermuda, costing 1 person their life, and causing around $1 million in damages. However, Hurricane Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane in Alabama, which caused evacuations throughout the coast to avoid danger from major wind damage and flooding. There were eight reported fatalities and around $5 billion in damages.
September 14th, Hurricane Teddy made its way up the East Coast. As it moved, it grew from a tropical storm to a Category 4 hurricane, but then lost speed while still in the open ocean. Accordingly, as it made its way from Bermuda to Canada, it was classified as a major storm. All told, it caused millions in damages and 3 reported fatalities.
Finally, on October 5th, Hurricane Delta made landfall in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, as a Category 2. But it had been shaping up to be a Category 4, which made it the third major storm of the 2020 season. It lost power before it made landfall again in Louisiana, but this didn’t stop it from being a major storm for the continental U.S. Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama all declared states of emergency and coastal areas were ordered to evacuate. Mexico saw trees and powerlines torn down and roofs ripped off of buildings. Louisiana and Southeast Texas all received high winds, heavy rain, and storm surges. Fourteen weak tornados were confirmed in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. All told, by the end of Hurricane Delta, there were $2 billion in insured losses and 6 deaths.
How the 2020 hurricane season will be remembered
There are many different services necessary to keep communities safe during these major storms. Just a few factors include disaster response teams, first responders, FEMA, and the Red Cross to help the injured and evacuees. But once the storms settled, there was an estimated $27.8 billion in property damage that has to be handled from this year’s hurricane season. While many people and their loved ones were safe, the crisis for temporary, short-term housing is a major issue. The victims of these catastrophes often have trouble finding short-term rentals available in their area, which is why Sedgwick’s temporary housing division has assisted thousands of families this year with relocating after a disaster.
While the 2020 hurricane season produced more hurricanes than the average year, it has not produced a Category 5 hurricane. Category 5 hurricanes are extremely rare, but there has been at least one Category 5 hurricane during each of the past four years, Matthew, Irma, Michael, and Dorian. The total cost of a hurricane season, however, is not only determined by the frequency and intensity of storms. The true economical impact of a hurricane season greatly depends on where storms make landfall and which areas are most affected.
Hurricane season, as defined by meteorologists, could eventually begin sooner than June 1st if we continue to see tropical storms developing earlier in May. The frequency and intensity of these storms are likely to continue driving significant property losses and affecting the P&C industry. Preventative building practices have become common along the coast. You can read more about what architects and builders are doing to “hurricane-proof” homes in our article Indestructible Homes: How Disaster Resistant Building Practices are Mitigating Losses.