When it issued its outlook for the 2020 hurricane season earlier this year, the Cayman Islands National Weather Service (CINWS) cautioned of “an above-average activity expected for the 2020 hurricane season”.
It was an accurate forecast.
That projection quoted weather experts at Colorado State University predicting an above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2020, citing the likely absence of El Niño as a primary factor.
“Tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently warmer than their long-term average values and are consequently also considered a factor favoring an active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season,” they said.
But even that might have been an understatement.
The 2020 hurricane season will long be remembered for its record-breaking series of dangerous storms and the many anxious moments it brought to residents of the Cayman Islands as several storms swept dangerously close by on their way to wreak havoc on other localities.
Starting with its early-season record-breaker Arthur to the late-season Theta, by then taken from the Greek alphabet, the 2020 season kept Cayman on its toes and the edge of its seat through almost seven months of what would normally be a six-month season.
But while Cayman’s disaster preparedness and storm updates kept residents in the know - and generally their advice was heeded - the territory was not immune to the impact of a couple of storms especially Eta plus a few other near misses.
When Eta made a U-turn back into the Caribbean Sea after pumnelli9ng Nicaragua and Honduras, it again swept by Cayman - as it did a few days earlier, but this time giving residents a bit of a scare with heavy rainfall fall, flooding, gusty winds, and rough seas.
Fortunately, damage was minimal despite the inconvenience of disruption to some services.
Not the same could be said for the areas in Latin America it hammered only to be followed shortly thereafter by another monster storm, Iota, which peaked at category 5.
From Arthur which developed in May to Iota of late November after the season had been pushed into the Greek alphabet for storm names, the 2020 hurricane season was in overdrive.
This year was the sixth year in succession that a storm was named even before the season had officially started.
And where an average hurricane season would have 12 named storms, this year accounted for a record-breaking 30, the most since 2005.
The damage estimates are still being tabulated especially for the impact on vulnerable coastal communities in Central America where over 40 deaths were recorded and complete villages buried in landslides due to the double whammy impact of hurricanes Eta and Iota.
Another massive storm, Laura, had earlier slammed into Louisiana in the US where 23 people died.
“It’s just been crazy,” says Allison Wing an assistant professor of meteorology at Florida State University, describing the season now confirmed as the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever documented.
Thirteen storms strengthened into hurricanes, the second-highest number in recorded history. Thirty of them earned names, beating 2005’s record of 28.
By the normal peak of the storm activity in September, The World Meteorological Organization actually ran out of storm names and had to resort to the Greek alphabet.
If there’s any consolation (other than Cayman’s luck holding) it might be that while 2020 had more storms, 2005 had stronger storms.
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