MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - October usually means fall weather, pumpkin spice and the smell of burning leaves. And while it also marks a drop in hurricane activity, we can’t let our guard down. In October, tropical cyclone formation is mainly in the western Caribbean, Bay of Campeche and southern Gulf of Mexico.
By October, waters start to cool and upper-level westerly winds become stronger. Cold fronts start to dive farther south allowing for cool temperatures. These cooler airmasses cause water temperatures to drop too. These changes can make it hard for hurricanes to form or move very far northward.
Last year in October 2019 there were five named storms but only 2 made landfall in the US. Those two storms were Tropical Storm Nestor and Olga and both made landfall along the Gulf Coast. The other three storms developed in the Atlantic but didn’t impact the U.S.
In 2018 there were only three that formed in October including Michael which was a memorable and mighty storm. Hurricane Michael was only the fifth time a Category 5 hurricane on record made landfall in the U.S. Hurricane Nadine and Tropical Storm Oscar also formed but did not impact land.
More than 80 percent of major hurricanes to hit the U.S. between 1900 and 2018 occurred prior to October. Since the hurricane tracks tend to shift farther south in October, south Florida is at greater risk for tropical activity. Between 1900 and 2018, Florida was hit by seven major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) and south Florida was hit by five major hurricanes from 1900 to 2018.
October is a month that, while hurricane activity is not as high, it has featured so in the most devastating and destructible hurricanes. Wilma was definitely memorable as it is the strongest hurricane on record in regards to pressure. Some of the other memorable October storms are Mitch in 1998, Opal in 1995 and Hazel in 1954.
People along the east coast can attest that powerful storms can and do strike in October. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is a prime example of a powerful October storm. Sandy impacted the East Coast north of Florida. Sandy ranks as the second-costliest hurricane to ever hit the U.S., totaling more than $68 billion. October memorable hurricanes that have hit the U.S. in the last century were Wilma in 2005, Hilda in 1994, and Hazel in 1954. Wilma had impacts on the struck the Yucatan Peninsula before causing damage on the southern part of Florida as a Category 3. Wilma had gusts over 100 mph and spawned ten tornadoes. Wilma set the record for lowest central pressure (882 mb, previously 888 mb) as well as fastest pressure drop (88 mb in 12 hours, previously 48 mb in 12 hours). Hilda made landfall in south-central Louisiana with 115 mph winds, and Hazel hit near the borders of the Carolinas with 140 mph winds and caused major wind damage.