The 2016 Hurricane Season is finally over! The first storm of the Atlantic hurricane season was Hurricane Alex, which formed on January 12, 2016. The last storm of the season, Hurricane Otto, ran its course in the final weeks of November. An 11-month span between the first and last storms of the season make 2016 the longest Atlantic hurricane season on record!
What is normally a six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially ended November 30 and had the most storms since 2010 and was the first season that saw more storms than normal since 2012. The most memorable storm was deadly and devastating Hurricane Matthew, which left hundreds dead in Haiti and led to horrendous flooding in the Carolinas after spinning up the U.S. East Coast.
The season was an unusually long one as well, starting with bizarre Hurricane Alex in January and ending with Hurricane Otto, which made a rare Thanksgiving landfall in Central America.
In all, a total of 15 named tropical storms formed during 2016, seven of which turned into hurricanes (Alex, Earl, Gaston, Hermine, Matthew, Nicole and Otto). A normal season sees 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes.
Three of the hurricanes in 2016 were classified as major hurricanes (Gaston, Matthew and Nicole), meaning they reached Category 3 strength with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher. None of those storms hit the U.S. as a major hurricane however, extending the nation’s record streak to 11 years since the most recent major hurricane (Wilma) made landfall.
Five named storms hit the U.S. during 2016, the most since 2008 when six storms struck. Here are some of the highlights:
- The strongest and longest-lived storm of the season was Matthew, which had winds of 160 mph and lasted as a major hurricane for eight days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007.The storm was a humanitarian disaster in Haiti, where it killed at least 500 people and perhaps as many as 1,000, according to local officials. Matthew killed 49 people in the U.S.
- Unusually early Alex formed on Jan. 13, spun through the Azores as a Category 1 hurricane and tropical storm, then dissipated on Jan. 15. It was the first Atlantic hurricane that formed in January since 1938.
- Hurricane Hermine made a 4,000-mile journey across the Atlantic before making landfall in the Big Bend of Florida on Sept. 2, ending the state’s record-long hurricane drought at 3,966 days.
- Otto’s hurricane landfall was the latest in any calendar year on record in the Atlantic Basin.
Top forecasters slightly underestimated the final total: Colorado State University called for 13 tropical storms, of which six would become hurricanes. NOAA predicted that 10-16 tropical storms would form, and four to eight would become hurricanes. AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, two of the largest private weather forecasting companies, both predicted 14 named tropical storms would form, and eight would become hurricanes.