Not since 2005 has the Atlantic basin seen so many storms in a hurricane season. The year 2020 now eclipses the old record, with at least 12 of those storms making landfall this year in the U.S. alone.
“Those two years are quite similar. They are anomalies,” said Lewis Link, a professor at the University of Maryland who studies hurricanes.
An increasing number of hurricanes are becoming major ones, which means their wind speed falls into a Category 3 hurricane or higher.
“Partially, it could be attributed to warming, higher sea surface temperatures, which are the fuel for generating hurricanes,” Link said.
It’s not just coastal areas that bear the brunt of concern during hurricanes. More and more often, the effects from these storms may hit the coast first, but they are being felt far more inland and in many more states than ever before.
A recent map put together by the National Hurricane Center showed all the counties impacted by hurricanes and tropical storm winds this year. The effects of those storms reached inland states like Arkansas, Tennessee, West Virginia and Vermont.
Yet, the effects from these storms go beyond just high winds.
“The biggest problem we have is with flooding, is inland flooding,” Link explained. “And some of that is attributed to tropical systems that continue to dump a lot of rain, long after they cross the shoreline.”
That’s an issue, he said, because many areas don’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with the heavy, quick downpours that are associated with tropical systems.
“Not only are they old, but they’re just not up to the task. That’s a serious problem. How do you change that?” Link said. “We’re not set up well to change our infrastructure based on changing conditions.”
It is a change that may have some communities rethinking exactly what it means to be in a hurricane zone.
While the official hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30, occasionally some tropical storms do develop outside those dates, including some that formed this year in May. Despite that, experts say there are no moves at the moment to expand the dates of the hurricane season.