MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t start officially until June 1, but this year we’ve already seen our first named storm.
Tropical storm Ana spent this weekend off the southeast coast, transitioning from a cluster of thunderstorms into a tropical system late on Friday night.
Ana moved onshore just northeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, at 6 a.m. Sunday, with 45 mph sustained winds.
She dropped 2 to 7 inches of rainfall near the South Carolina – North Carolina border, and created some coastal erosion. Overall, an unremarkable storm, except for how early in the year she developed.
NASA scientists estimate that a tropical system, strong enough to get a name, occurs this early in the year only once or twice every 100 years. And meteorologist Eric Blake of the National Hurricane Center says that Ana was the second-earliest tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., behind an unnamed storm in February of 1952.
All this drama comes at a time in history when the U.S. has been in a hurricane drought, of sorts.
Over the past nine years there have been 59 hurricanes in the Atlantic. But during that time, no hurricanes of Category 3 or higher have hit the U.S. coastline. Such a string of lucky years is likely to happen only once in 177 years, according to a new NASA study.
Storms weaker than Category 3 can still be dangerous. Sandy in 2012, Irene in 2011, and Ike in 2008, together caused over $100 billion of damage.
As for this upcoming hurricane season, the official predictions haven’t been released yet. But statistical analysis suggests that, for any given year, there is a 40 percent chance of a Category 3 or higher hurricane landing across the U.S. coastline.