The 2016 Hurricane Season Could Be Most Damaging Since Sandy in 2012

Hurricane Wilma was the last major storm to hit U.S. shores back in 2005.


Hurricane Wilma was the last “major storm” (defined as a category three or higher) to reach U.S. shores. When it made landfall on October 24, 2005 near Cape Romano in southwest Florida, winds were at 111 mph. It was a bad year for hurricanes, too. Three other major storms hit the United States, including Dennis, Katrina, Rita.

The United States has lucked out when it comes to hurricanes in the last decade, but that’s about to change.

Tropical Storm Risk, in a recently released pre-season report, predicts an 80 percent chance that 2016 will be “the most active hurricane season since 2012.” (That’s the same year hurricane Sandy rocked the East coast in what became the second-costliest hurricane in United States history, despite not being classified a category three storm.)

Other forecasters such as Risk Management Solutions and Colorado State University, predict average to slightly above-average hurricane activity. The Colorado report predicts “hurricane activity in 2016 will be about 30 percent above the 1950-2015 long-term norm and about 40 percent above the recent 2006-2015 10-year norm.”

One predictor of what could happen this hurricane season revolves around the status of the lingering El Niño over the Atlantic ocean. In its simplest terms, forecasters say this El Niño will move into a La Niña phase, which is prime breeding ground for a more active hurricane season. However, there’s a strong possibility surface temperatures in the Atlantic will cool off and lessen the activity of the season.

On average, two storms have made landfall on U.S. shores every three years and some weather forecasters are concerned the streak won’t last. (Timothy Hall of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies writes in a study published in the American Geophysical Union that the streak comes down to luck.)

The absence of a storm like Wilma breaks a record held for 146 years, going back to when records began in 1851. But forecasters seem split on how this season will shape up. For the sake of U.S. coastal cities, let’s hope the streak continues.

 In this handout photo provided by NASA, Hurricane Patricia is seen from the International Space Station. The hurricane made landfall on the Pacfic coast of Mexico on October 23.

Scott Kelly/NASA via Getty Images