Mother Earth spins storms off her equatorial girdle like a sweating goddess. Trade Winds and currents flow from Senegal/Gambia in West Africa straight to the Caribbean and then turn up the East Coast around the Bermuda high pressure system. They bring Sahara Sandstorms to the Caribbean and storms that sometimes become hurricanes.
In the past these same winds and currents brought colonizers. Puerto Rico was the first good water stop. The word “hurricane” comes from the Spanish “huracán,” but is actually a Taíno word “hurakán” which means god of the storm. Most hurricanes would rise over the island from the east, over El Yunque, the sacred mountain of Puerto Rico.
Hurricane Season 2020
This season is expected to be stronger than normal. It is the first season to have three weather systems before the traditional June 1 start date. The first, Tropical Storm Arthur formed on May 16, 2020.
Saturday, August 8, 2020 at 8am ~ The five day forecast is clear.
Thursday, August 6, 2020 at 2am ~ All clear.
Wednesday, August 5, 2020 ~ All clear.
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
6pm ~ Isaias damaged some homes on the Jersey shore and Williamsburg. It brought down many trees in the region and killed one person in their car in Queens. Trains and overhead subways stopped running. There are major power outages. But it went past early so the surge isn’t as bad as forecast.
8 am ~ Tropical Storm Isaias arrived in New York City this morning. The main impact is expected on south-facing shorelines of the Rockaways, Coney Island and Lower Manhattan with the storm rising in mid-afternoon and peaking before midnight.
Storm surge forecasts have gone up to 7.8 feet, but that is much less than Sandy’s 13.8 foot surge. Wind gusts up to 60mph are forecast. 2-4 inches of rain are forecast.
Beaches are closed, although surfing is allowed in certain areas.
Monday, August 3, 2020
- 5pm ~ There is a Tropical Storm Warning for Metropolitan New York City. A 2-3 foot storm surge is expected in coastal areas. Sandy was something like 12-14 feet, so it’s not as bad. There will also be high winds.
- 8am ~ Tropical Storm Isaias is offshore from Georgia. It’s expected to gain hurricane strength as it approaches the Carolinas. Tropical Storm winds and 1-3 foot storm surge could reach New York.
Sunday, August 2, 2020 at 8am ~ Tropical Storm Isaias continues to pour rain on the Northern Bahamas. It’s starting to roll up the Florida Coast towards North Carolina.
Saturday, August 1, 2020 at 2am
- Hurricane Isaisas is over the Bahamas and heading for Florida. It’s heading for New York City around Monday night.
- There’s a Tropical Disturbance in the Atlantic approaching the Lesser Antilles.
- Tropical Depression Ten is approaching the Cape Verde Islands.
Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 5am ~ Tropical Storm Isaias is currently south of Puerto Rico. It is now heading for the Dominican Republic, northern Haiti and the Bahamas. The storm is expected to brush Eastern Florida and skim up the coast. It has the potential to impact New York City and Boston.
A new Tropical Depression is heading for the Cape Verde Islands.
Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 5pm ~ Tropical Depression Nine is passing south of Puerto Rico. It hasn’t formed a cyclone so far. However, forecast swell (waves) is 10-18 feet.
July 29, 2020, Wednesday at 2am ~ Tropical Depression Nine is over the Lesser Antilles and expected to reach Puerto Rico by midday.
July 28, 2020, Tuesday at 8am ~ The low pressure system is headed for the Lesser Antilles Wednesday and Puerto Rico on Wednesday night and Thursday. It’s time to prepare and keep an eye out.
July 27, 2020, Monday at 8am ~ The low pressure system in the Atlantic keeps turning north. A Tropical Depression or Tropical Storm is likely by Wednesday and later in the week.
Sunday, July 26, 2020 at 8pm ~ The low pressure system is expected to reach the Lesser Antilles Wednesday or Wednesday night. It’s heading towards Puerto Rico.
Friday, July 24, 2020 ~ Gonzalo continues towards the West Indies. Storm Eight is now Hanna. A new low pressure system is forming off of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa.
Thursday, July 23, 2020 ~ Tropical Storm Gonzalo is a thousand miles off the southern Windward Islands. Tropical Depression Eight has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. The Five-Day Forecast looks okay.
Wednesday, July 22, 2020 ~ In just a few hours, Tropical Depression Seven has strengthened into Tropical Storm Gonzalo. Its track is forecast to cross over Grenada in the Lesser Antilles on Saturday night. Gonzalo is the earliest ever 7th storm. We don’t usually get seven Atlantic storms until mid-September.
Sunday, July 19, 2020 ~ A tropical disturbance is forming over Hispaniola (Haiti/Dominican Republic). In the 5-day forecast, it is expected to skirt northern Cuba and enter the Gulf of Mexico.
Saturday, July 4, 2020 ~ So far so good. We’ve had unusually strong Sahara dust storms over the Caribbean and even into the mainland United States. The sands block storm formation. The fifth tropical depression of the year is currently between Bermuda and Georgia. The five-day outlook looks clear.
2020 Hurricane Names
The season begins with a list of names for tropical storms that become hurricanes.
This year they are:
- Arthur ~ Formed on May 16, 2020.
- Isaias became a tropical storm south of Puerto Rico on July 30, a hurricane over the Carolinas on August 3, and a tropical storm over New York City on August 4. It killed people, damaged homes and knocked out power in Metropolitan New York City. It’s the worst storm in NYC since Hurricane Sandy.
Sounds like the Gran Combo song, “Me Libere.”
These storms are called “cyclones” because they cycle around a low-pressure center. Cyclones start as Tropical Depressions. When wind speeds rise above 39MPH, they are called Tropical Storms and given names in alphabetical order through the season. Cyclones are called “Hurricanes” (typhoons in Asia) when sustained winds reach 74 mph or more. Major Hurricanes have wind speeds above 110 mph.
- Tropical Depressions (unstructured storms) are numbered One, Two, Three…
- Tropical Storms are named when winds rise above 39 mph. Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal…
- Hurricanes occur when winds rise above 74 mph
- Major Hurricanes occur when winds rise above 110 mph
Hurricanes cause damage with high winds and heavy rains. Storm surge, a wall of water pushed ahead of the storm, is especially dangerous in coastal areas.
The Caribbean is the most affected region, but hurricanes often turn and move up the Atlantic Coast. They can reach New York. Remember Hurricane Sandy in 2012? Some of the damage still hasn’t been repaired. Hurricanes affect New York even if they stay in the Caribbean because many Latin New Yorkers have family in the islands.
The average number of hurricanes in a season is about 12. It’s been as high as 28 and as low as 4.
Many Caribbean islands get seriously hit every 10 or 20 years at the most. So Caribbean life is designed around hurricanes. They are part of the natural cycle, Indigenous cosmology and everyday life.
Sometimes cyclones also bring change. The Haitian Revolution began as a Hurricane approached.
Atlantic Hurricane Formation
The Azores or Bermuda-Azores High is a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the central Atlantic. It moves over the Azores in the East Atlantic in summer and over Bermuda in the West Atlantic in winter.
Summer weather (low pressure) rotates around this high pressure system in a clockwise direction.
Warm dry Mediterranean/Sahara air moves south over West Africa where it picks up moisture. From there, trade winds and ocean currents push the storms across the Atlantic towards the Caribbean islands, Florida and the U.S. Atlantic coast.
The strength and position of the high pressure system determines whether storms stay in the Caribbean, hit the South or Florida, or move even further up the coast. The El Niño temperature oscillation in the Pacific also affects the intensity of Atlantic hurricanes.
Climate change is increasing the strength and frequency of hurricanes. We are currently in an above-average storm cycle that began in 2016.
Hurricane Sandy made it all the way to New York City in October-November 2012. It did about $70 billion in damage.
Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico in 2017. Two years after a failed FEMA response led by the Trump-McConnell Republican GOP, over 20,000 people are reported to still be living under blue tarps. President Trump helped us out by throwing rolls of paper towels.