Tropical Storm Gabrielle is hitting Puerto Rico today with 40-mile-per-hour winds and heavy rains.
Gabrielle is the seventh named storm of the season, but so far there hasn’t been a single hurricane — even though we’re about to enter what’s usually considered the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.
So how rare is this?
Dennis Feltgen, meteorologist and spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center, says it’s rare but not unheard of.
“Where we sit here on September 5th, there’s actually been 15 other years besides this one where the first hurricane of the season formed after this date.”
Feltgen says it isn’t that we haven’t been having storms, rather that the ones that form haven’t been able to gather strength.
“We had Andrea that went right up into the Florida panhandle, then Barry, but the three storms after that were out in the Atlantic and they certainly had potential, but they ran into dry, sinking air and some wind sheer.
There is a correlation between the strength of a storm and when it forms in the season, Feltgen said.
“You can get some horrific late-season hurricanes — Sandy is a great example. So there’s no rule that says as you get later in the season the hurricanes get weaker. That is a myth,” Feltgen said.
His advice? Don’t dip into your emergency supplies until the hurricane season ends on November 30th.
- Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
Well, on to other weather news. Tropical Storm Gabrielle is hitting Puerto Rico with wind and heavy rain today, but so far this year there hasn't been a single named Atlantic hurricane. Dennis Feltgen of the National Hurricane Center joins us. And Dennis, how unusual has this hurricane season been?
DENNIS FELTGEN: Unusual but certainly not unheard of. Where we sit here on September 5, there's actually been 15 other years besides this one where the first hurricane of the season formed after this date. The all-time record is October 8 of 1905. And you know what? That's a record I wouldn't mind breaking.
CHAKRABARTI: So 15 years in all the year that we've been keeping records on hurricanes. That's remarkable. What's causing it?
FELTGEN: Well, we started out right out of the gate pretty active. We had Tropical Storm Andrea go right up into the Florida panhandle back in early June. That was followed quickly by Tropical Storm Barry that went into Mexico. But the three storms after that were all out into the Atlantic, and they certainly had potential.
But they ran into dry, sinking air and some wind shear, and part of that was that Saharan dust that was out there. And you put that combination together, and those storms got ripped apart.
CHAKRABARTI: So I understand, though, that the peak of the storm season, or the hurricane season, we're sort of heading into that peak right now. But I don't imagine that's much comfort for, say, folks in New York and New Jersey who remember that last year Hurricane Sandy hit on October 29.
FELTGEN: Right, you raise a very good point. We are just at the midpoint of a six-month season. We've just entered the peak of the season, which runs from mid-August all the way through late October. And so you can still have, even though you've had a quiet start of the season, you can still have a very active second half of the season.
CHAKRABARTI: So Dennis, as you mentioned, the record for the late first hurricane formation is October 8, but that was back in 1905. Obviously we use satellite technology now. So how has that changed how we understand, you know, how and when late storms form?
FELTGEN: When we got continuous satellite coverage of the Atlantic Basin, everything changed. That happened in 1967. And so the modern-day record in the satellite era for the latest first hurricane formation is Gustav on September 11, 2002. We're only six days away from breaking the satellite-era record.
CHAKRABARTI: Dennis Feltgen is meteorologist and spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center. He's speaking to us from Miami. Dennis, thanks again.
FELTGEN: My pleasure.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.