The end of the 2020 hurricane season?

12 named storms hit the U.S., including 5 that hit Louisiana

By: - November 30, 2020 7:38 pm

A chart from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration with details of the 2020 hurricane season.

There’s no guarantee that another storm won’t form before the end of the year — one formed on Dec. 30 in 2005 —  but Nov. 30 marked the official end of the 2020 hurricane season, the likes of which neither Louisiana or the country has seen before. Twelve named storms hit the United States in 2020, and five of them, including three hurricanes, struck Louisiana.

Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, was by far the most powerful and destructive of those five. The storm made landfall in Cameron Parish on Aug. 27 as the most powerful one to ever hit the state, and it maintained enough intensity in the hours that followed to rip a vertical seam of destruction all the way into Arkansas.

Six weeks later, Hurricane Delta hit the same area of Southwest Louisiana, landing in Creole on Oct. 9 with winds of 100 mph.

Hurricane Zeta made landfall in Terrebonne Parish Oct. 29 with 110 mph winds, the maximum wind speed of a Category 2 storm. The storm passed directly over the city of New Orleans.

CoreLogic, which calculates the amount of damage to insured property after major events, estimated that Laura destroyed between $8 billion and $12 billion in property, Delta between $700 million and $1.2 billion and Zeta between $2.5 billion and $4 billion.

“Today marks the end of the 2020 hurricane season,” Gov. John Bel Edwards wrote on Twitter. “It’s been a hard one, but if we’ve learned anything from the five storms that came ashore this year it’s that the people of Louisiana are resilient and by working together, there’s no challenge too great for us to overcome.  

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, whose department oversees the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, called the 2020 season “relentless,” and a summary of the season published by NOAA Nov. 24 says this year’s 30 named storms exceed the 28 counted in 2005.  As for storms that reach hurricane strength, 2020 has had the second highest number on record.

The World Meteorological Organization uses 21 letters in the English alphabet each year to name storms (skipping the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z) and then moves to the Greek alphabet if there are more than 21 storms. The first time Greek letters had to be used was 2005. That year Tropical Storm Zeta formed on Dec. 30.

Hurricane Iota, which formed this year on Nov. 13  and reached its peak as a 160-mph Category 5 storm, struck Nicaragua as a 155-mph Category 4 storm on  Nov. 17.

Six of the storms that hit the United States were classified as major, twice as many as the average of three per year.

When Zeta formed, forecasters predicted that it would hit Louisiana as a tropical storm that might get close to Category 1 hurricane strength. It hit the state one mile per hour shy of a major Category 3 hurricane.

Jim Kossin, an atmospheric research scientist at NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate, said in a post on NOAA’s website that while the number of 2020 storms was the most noteworthy, “we also saw yet more examples of very rapid intensification and very slow moving hurricanes, both of which have recently been linked to climate change.”

Kossin said 10 hurricanes rapidly intensified, among them Laura, Delta and Zeta. He said predicting the intensity of storms is “very challenging” for meteorologists, but that more intense storms are becoming more common. 

“Hurricanes are about 25% more likely to be at major-hurricane intensity now than four decades ago,’’ he said. “…Hurricanes are more likely to rapidly intensify and they are more likely to move forward more slowly and stall more often over land.”


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Jarvis DeBerry
Jarvis DeBerry

Jarvis DeBerry, former editor of the Louisiana Illuminator, spent 22 years at The Times-Picayune (and later as a crime and courts reporter, an editorial writer, columnist and deputy opinions editor. He was on the team of Times-Picayune journalists awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service after that team’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the deadly flood that followed. In addition to the shared Pulitzer, DeBerry has won awards from the Louisiana Bar Association for best trial coverage and awards from the New Orleans Press Club, the Louisiana/ Mississippi Associated Press and the National Association of Black Journalists for his columns. A collection of his Times-Picayune columns, “I Feel to Believe” was published by the University of New Orleans Press in September 2020.