As the second Category 5 hurricane of the season after Irma, Maria has made 2017 only the sixth time that the Atlantic Ocean has had two or more such storms in a given year. The last time two Category 5 hurricanes occurred in the same season was in 2007 (Dean, Felix).
The record for most Category 5 hurricanes during an Atlantic Basin (including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea) season is four, set in 2005 (Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma). The only time in recorded history there have been more than two Category 5 hurricanes in a given Atlantic season was in 2005. Before weather satellites began being used in the 1960s, it was very difficult to determine if a tropical storm or hurricane existed if it remained over the open ocean. There could have been additional Category 5 hurricanes, but there was just no reliable way to determine it.
Hurricane Maria was upgraded to Category 5 status at 8:00 PM last night, roughly 24 hours after becoming a minimal Category 1 hurricane. That marks some of the fastest intensification on record for a tropical storm or hurricane. Now that Maria has become one of the strongest hurricanes on record, it remains to be seen what other benchmarks Maria will set. A great deal of uncertainty exists as to where Hurricane Maria will ultimately track, so it’s vital to keep informed of the latest forecasts from the WUSA9 First Alert Weather Team and the National Hurricane Center.
So far this year, there has been a total of 13 tropical storms and 7 hurricanes, 4 of which have become major (“Category 3” or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) hurricanes – including Hurricane Maria. These totals include a rare April tropical storm, Arlene, which occurred before hurricane season began June 1. Although there were four major hurricanes last season, none made landfall in the United States. From Harvey to Irma to Maria, hurricanes have dominated headlines over the last few weeks, so some may wonder if this has been an unusually busy hurricane season.
Late August and September is normally the busiest time of the hurricane season, so to have an uptick in activity is not unusual this time of year. What is unusual, though, is that the United States has had two landfalling Category 4 hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) in the same season for the first time on record, according to NOAA. In fact, prior to Hurricane Harvey’s landfall in Texas late last month, the last major hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
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NOAA data indicates an “average” Atlantic hurricane season features 12 tropical storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In early August, NOAA updated its seasonal forecast for this hurricane season and now calls for a busier than average season with 14 – 19 tropical storms, 5 – 9 hurricanes and 2 – 5 major hurricanes. The next tropical storm after Maria will be named “Nate.” Hurricane season runs through November 30.