MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - July is now underway, which means we are in the second month of 2020′s hurricane season. So what should we expect here in the Atlantic Basin?
Over the next week or so, the Atlantic Basin looks to remain relatively inactive. However, that could certainly change by the middle of the month and beyond as some long-range guidance hints at some potential areas of interest.
Even if we don’t see much -- maybe 1 or 2 storms -- in July, that is normal and doesn’t mean anything about what could happen in August, September or October. That’s the 3-month period where the Atlantic Basin “wakes up” each year, churning up multiple named storms.
If you want to hone in even more on when the true peak in tropical activity occurs, it would be fair to say roughly August 20th through October 20th. That’s of course on average, per NOAA.
For July, though, it’s typically rather quiet. You can attribute -- at least partially -- the higher concentration of Saharan Dust that’s present in June and July across the Atlantic. Other reasons include less-than-ideal shear levels (shear discourages hurricane development and maintenance).
Since 1851, July has only accounted for 8% of the Atlantic hurricane season’s named storms. That’s according to the NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division. Compared that figure to August (25%), September (40%) and October (23%).
For perspective, there have been 56 named storms in July in the Atlantic Basin since the modern satellite era began in 1966. That’s good for about 1 named storm per July. Of those 56, a total of 20 made landfall somewhere along the U.S. coast, with the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast being the hot spots.
Dating back to 1851 again -- a total of 27 hurricanes have made landfall in July in the Lower 48. Most those hit somewhere along the Gulf Coast.
That includes six that made landfall between Biloxi, Mississippi, and Destin, Florida. This of course includes the Alabama shoreline. Two of those six were major hurricanes, reaching category 3 strength: The Gulf Coast Hurricane of 1916 and Hurricane Dennis from 2005.
According to Dr. Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University, the Gulf Coast Hurricane and Hurricane Dennis are tied for the strongest July hurricanes to ever make landfall in the continental United States. Each had peak winds of 120 mph. The Gulf Coast Hurricane made landfall near the Alabama-Mississippi border, while Hurricane Dennis made landfall near Pensacola.
Another one of those 27 hurricanes to make a July landfall in the Lower 48 occurred just last year in 2019. While only reaching category 1 status, Hurricane Barry caused substantial problems across Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
It’s clear we get tropical storms and hurricanes in July in the Atlantic Basin. And it’s clear that the Gulf of Mexico is a so-called “hot spot.” As always, it’s important to make sure you have your hurricane safety plan and hurricane kits ready to go in the event the tropics heat up later this month!