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FIRST ALERT: Historic hurricane season comes to an end

Published: Nov. 30, 2020 at 2:50 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Today marks the end of the most active hurricane season on record.

The historic 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is drawing to a close with a record-breaking 30 named storms and 12 landfalling storms in the United States. While the official hurricane season ends on November 30, tropical storms can sometimes continue to develop into December.

The season got off to an early and rapid start with a record-breaking nine named storms forming from May through July. As the hyper-active season raged on, the 21-name Atlantic list reached its end with the formation of Wilfred on September 18. For only the second time in history, the Greek alphabet was used for the remainder of the season. The season has made it all the way to the 9th names on the Greek list - Iota.

Stats from the historic 2020 hurricane season.
Stats from the historic 2020 hurricane season.(WMBF)

The 2020 hurricane season marked the fifth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26 years.

According to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration “this increased hurricane activity is attributed to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) — which began in 1995 — and has favored more, stronger, and longer-lasting storms since that time. Such active eras for Atlantic hurricanes have historically lasted about 25 to 40 years. "

“As we correctly predicted, an interrelated set of atmospheric and oceanic conditions linked to the warm AMO were again present this year. These included warmer-than-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger west African monsoon, along with much weaker vertical wind shear and wind patterns coming off of Africa that were more favorable for storm development. These conditions, combined with La Nina, helped make this record-breaking, extremely active hurricane season possible,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

5 named storms at once in the peak of the 2020 season.
5 named storms at once in the peak of the 2020 season.(NOAA)

In the Carolinas, the most significant impacts from the historic season came from Hurricane Isaias.

Tropical Storm Isaias began to quickly intensify as it passed close to the Grand Strand, regaining hurricane status late in the day on August 4. The hurricane made landfall near Ocean Isle, NC with 85 mph winds later that day. With its landfall, Isaias became the earliest fifth named storm to make landfall in the United States.

Hurricane Isaias generated the third highest high tide ever recorded in Myrtle Beach. In North Myrtle Beach alone, 483 properties suffered damage with losses to piers and boat ramps totalling $2.4 million in the city. Throughout the Carolinas, over 400,000 people lost power at the height of the storm. Heavy damage was inflicted to multiple homes in Oak Island and Holden Beach, NC, including three that were destroyed by a large fire.  At least 109 baby sea turtles were found dead in North Myrtle Beach following the storm surge.

Widespread tornado warnings were reported with Isaias with 15 tornadoes touching down. On August 3, a waterspout came ashore and struck Southport, NC, causing major EF2 damage. Later, another waterspout came ashore in Garden City as an EF0 tornado, injuring one. Early on August 4, a large EF3 tornado obliterated a mobile home park south of Windsor, NC, killing two and injuring 14.

Later in the season, the remnants of several Gulf of Mexico storms brought heavy rain and tornadoes to the Carolinas.

The remnants of Sally, Beta and Delta each produced several tornadoes including one in Florence County and Marlboro County and 2 in Horry County.

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