Florida still reeling from destructive, deadly hurricane season

By Weather Experts, Spectrum News Meteorologists
Last Updated: Thursday, November 30, 2017, 5:27 PM EST

As the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially comes to a close Thursday, it will be remembered as a destructive, expensive and deadly one.

  • Atlantic hurricane season officially ends Nov. 30
  • Harvey, Irma, Maria killed hundreds, caused billions in damage
  • Tropical systems can still be named outside of season

This season saw 17 named systems.

"This season has been what we call "hyper-active," said Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. "You have to go back to 2005 to find a hurricane season that was this active, and it's in the top three or four of the most active hurricane seasons we've ever had."

"September was actually the most active September on record," Clay explained. "This year, everything came together wrong place at the wrong time. Those upper level lows were not there. So there was low wind shear -- perfect conditions far out in the Atlantic for these long-range storms."

Hurricane Harvey was the first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States since Wilma in 2005. It came onshore near Port Aransas, Texas and was followed by several days of catastrophic flooding in the Houston area.

Hurricane Irma is of most significance to Floridians. The storm made direct impacts on Cudjoe Key followed by Marco Island before running up the west central part of the peninsula on the evening of Sept. 10 and into the next day.

Shortly after, major Hurricane Maria barreled through the northeast Caribbean, striking Puerto Rico on Sept. 20. The large portions of the U.S. territory are still without electricity and running water. Many of the islanders have made their way to the mainland, particularly Florida, to escape the destruction.

The three storms alone killed hundreds and caused billions in damage.

For Florida residents like Barbara Schmidt, whose home suffered damage due to the Withlacoochee River flooding following Irma, the impact of the storms and resulting storm surge was eye-opening.

"We just couldn't believe how quick the Withlacoochee River came up," Schmidt said. "We didn't have much time to do anything."

Schmidt said the experience left her family wondering about moving before next year's storm season.

"If possible, we might possibly move to a different area that's not a flood zone," Schmidt said. "I mean, we love it here, but we're getting older and can't deal with all the flooding."

The increased activity in the Atlantic this year can be attributed to a neutral state of the Atlantic, which took on a weak La Nina signature by the fall. This is when upper level winds are lighter, which favors storm development. El Nino years tend to be less active in the Atlantic, because strong winds aloft prohibit storms from intensifying.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1–Nov. 30. This six month designation marks the time of the year when tropical cyclones are most likely to form. During these months, particularly August and September, ocean temperatures warm making it favorable for storms to develop and strengthen.

Tropical systems can still form outside of this six month range. It happened this year when Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.