The storms of November

November 1, 2005

As we enter the final month of the hurricane season, I thought it would be useful to look over the history of storms forming on November 1 or later.

In the past 60 years, 33 tropical storms have formed in the late or post-season with 19 of those becoming hurricanes. As several seasons had two storms, the number of seasons with tropical storms reduces to 24 and those with hurricanes down to 15. So, in the past 60 years, 40% of the seasons have had a tropical storm and 25% have had a hurricane form after Halloween.

It is tempting to think that the late season activity is correlated to the activity of the season overall, i.e. a busy season before November leads to a busy November and vice-versa. Recent history gives that idea a quick death. The very active 1995 season had no late season storms. The quiet (7 named storms / 3 hurricanes) 1994 season, on the other hand, featured two November hurricanes.

Nearly all of the November storms have been of interest only to meteorologists as they tend to be weak and out to sea. There are only three storms that exhibited neither of those tendencies.

Hurricane Lenny of the 1999 season was a notable storm for many reasons. His track featured west to east movement across the Carribean, something that was “unprecedented in the 113-year Atlantic basin tropical cyclone record”. He was the fifth category four storm of that season, which set a record. Lenny was responsible for 17 deaths and caused significant damage in the islands of the northeast Carribean. This caused the name to be retired. It is the only name on the retired list that is associated with a storm that formed in November.

Hurricane Kate of 1985 was the strongest late season storm to threaten the US. After entering the Gulf of Mexico via the Florida Straits, she strengthened to category three status. Cool shallow water near the coast caused Kate to weaken before landfall at Mexico Beach, Florida as a minimal category two. Kate was responsible for $300 million of damage.

The sixth hurricane of the 1912 season hit Jamaica as a category four storm and claimed somewhere between 100 and 300 lives.

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