NEW ORLEANS — The 2020 hurricane season was the most active season ever.
“Every piece of real estate along the immediate coastline was under some type of tropical storm, hurricane, or storm surge watch or warning during the hurricane season,” says Michael Brennan from the National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Specialist Unit.
In all, 30 named storms formed, a new season high. It topped 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, when there were 28 storms.
Eleven storms made landfall last year — another record. The previous record was set in 1916 with nine storms coming on land. Louisiana got four of those landfalls, which tied a record for the most for any single state in one season.
Forecasters initially thought that Hurricane Marco made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River, which would have been a new record. But, the final report says Marco stayed just off the coast and never actually made a landfall.
Hurricane Laura’s 150 mph winds tied a storm in 1856 for the strongest to hit Louisiana directly. Hurricane Camille (1969), a Category 5 hurricane, was stronger, but made landfall near Waveland, Mississippi.
Hurricane Delta was strongest to directly hit New Orleans.
Other firsts in the season: two major hurricanes registered in November — Eta and Iota. That had never happened. And, Iota reached Category 5 intensity on November 16th, the latest for any Category 5 storm.
The other first-of-its-kind last year: dealing with all these storms during another crisis — the pandemic. It put everyone in the path of a storm in a difficult position, including the forecasters.
“A pandemic tells you to stay home. And a hurricane forces you to evacuate,” says Jamie Rhome of the NHC Storm Surge Unit. “So, how do you deconflict that information and convey your message in a way that people can understand? We were struggling all season long. It was a psychologically difficult lift for every single one of our forecasters.”