On August 9th, deep in the southern Gulf of Mexico, Hurricane Franklin reached 85mph winds before moving into Mexico. Although the storm dropped some heavy rains over the Mexican state of Veracruz, Franklin’s effects were relatively moderate, and it was soon forgotten.
But Franklin’s formation two months ago, eight additional tropical systems have developed and been assigned names by the National Hurricane Center. And during this frenetic season, all of those systems have become hurricanes as well. That’s nine in a row, which is unprecedented in the modern hurricane era.
According to Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane scientist at Colorado State University, nine consecutive named storms have not reached hurricane status since 1893. The record is 10 such storms, which happened in 1878, 1886, and 1893. However, it is unlikely that those years really recorded 10 hurricanes in a row, given that most observations were made on land or by ships.
“Obviously vastly different observing system now than in 19th century,” Klotzbach noted, via Twitter. Indeed, regular tropical system observations by aircraft didn’t begin until the mid-20th century, and satellite observations of the Atlantic basin weren’t commonplace until the 1960s or 1970s. Therefore, it seems likely that a few stray tropical storms were missed during the busy seasons of the 1800s.
On Friday, Nate shot the gap between the Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba, allowing its center to remain offshore. It has found relatively low wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico, and in their 11am ET update on Saturday, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center now predict the storm will reach Category 2 hurricane status prior to landfall Saturday night or Sunday morning.
As the storm comes ashore in extreme southeastern Louisiana and the Mississippi coast, its most deleterious effects should be near and to the east of the center, where by far the strongest winds are. A hurricane warning is in effect for portions of the northern Gulf Coast from Louisiana to Alabama.
Forecasters at the hurricane center have warned of of “life-threatening storm surge flooding” conditions near and well east of the center, and a surge warning is in effect from Morgan City, Louisiana, to the Okaloosa/Walton county line in Florida. At its worst, surge flooding from Nate may rise 7 to 11 feet above ground level. Forecasters urged residents to heed evacuation warnings.
Winds from Nate should fall off relatively quickly once the storm moves inland along a track through Mississippi and Alabama. One relatively good thing about Nate is the storm’s rapid movement to the north-northwest at 26mph, as this should limit rainfall accumulations from the system. Some areas may see six or more inches of rain, forecasters said, but their primary concern was for coastal residents affected by surge.