Record-setting 2016 hurricane season comes to an end

Image 1 of 5

It’s official: The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season wraps up today with 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. It was the busiest Atlantic season since 2012.

On average, there are 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, so there was an above-average number of named storms and hurricanes in 2016. The slightly above-average season is in line with predictions from NOAA and Colorado State University.

Several storms were strong and long-lived in 2016.  When we analyze the total energy output of all tropical systems during the entire hurricane season, or ACE, the number is high is 2016. According to Dr. Klotzbach at Colorado State University the ACE this year is 134. This is double the ACE from 2015.


Two hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. -- Hermine became the first hurricane to hit Florida since Wilma in 2005. Hurricane Matthew paralleled Florida and Georgia and made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane.

Matthew was a Category 5 hurricane in the Caribbean. It was the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Basin since Felix in 2007.

Tropical Storm Colin made landfall in Florida and Bonnie struck South Carolina as a tropical depression in South Carolina. Julia threw a curveball. It formed over Florida, the first named storm to form over the Sunshine State. Hurricane Otto made landfall in Nicaragua on Thanksgiving. It is the latest hurricane to make landfall anywhere in the Atlantic Basin.


The 2016 season started well before June 1. Hurricane Alex formed in rare fashion in January and made landfall in the Azores. It was the first January Atlantic hurricane since 1938. Hurricane Alice formed in late December 1954 and maintained hurricane strength in early January 1955, too.

Fast forward to late May and Tropical Storm Bonnie also formed before June 1. It formed over the warm Gulf Stream in the western Atlantic and made landfall near Charleston as a tropical depression. Bonnie drenched the Carolinas and brought rip currents to the coastline Memorial Day weekend.


A third named storm formed in early June. Colin was a sheared tropical storm that made landfall in Florida’s Big Bend. Most of the rain was on the eastern side of the storm. Parts of Tampa Bay had over 15 inches of rainfall from tropical moisture associated with Colin. The storm brought rough surf and rip currents to the Mid-Atlantic a few days later.

In mid-June, Danielle formed in the Bay of Campeche. It was a short-lived storm that made landfall in mountainous east Mexico.

We waited another six weeks for the next named storm. Earl originated as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa. It became the second hurricane of 2016 in the Caribbean in early August.  It made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in Belize and made a second landfall in Mexico as a tropical storm. Landslides and heavy rain brought significant damage to the region.

Cape Verde season was in full swing and in mid-August Tropical Storm Fiona formed over the open central Atlantic. It dissipated due to plenty of dry African air and wind shear a few days later.  Gaston became the first major hurricane of the season on August 28. Fortunately it stayed over the central Atlantic and didn’t affect any land masses.

Gaston was quite resilient and maintained tropical cyclone status for 12 days. Its remnants brought squalls to the Azores.


Hurricane Hermine put an end to the hurricane landfall drought in Florida. It made landfall in the Big Bend region on September 1 as a Category 1 hurricane. It was the first hurricane to hit the Sunshine State since Wilma in October 2005. Hermine was also the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since Arthur in July 2014. It brought a record 7.5 feet storm surge to Cedar Key.

The Tampa Bay area had a 2- to 4-foot surge. Parts of north and central Florida had over a foot of rain, including 22.36 inches at Lake Tarpon Canal in Pinellas County. Heavy rain moved on to the Southeast and Mid Atlantic.


September was an active month. Tropical Storm Ian formed over the central Atlantic in mid-September. It stayed out to sea. After Ian was Julia. Oddly enough, Julia formed over northeast Florida in mid-September. It is the first tropical cyclone to form over the state of Florida. Julia meandered off of South Carolina and brought rough surf and rip currents to the state.

Long-lived Tropical Storm Karl neared hurricane strength northeast of Bermuda in late September. Outer rain bands brought tropical storm wind gusts to Bermuda International Airport on September 24. Tropical Storm Lisa formed west of the Cabo Verde Islands in late September. It dissipated a few days later over the open Atlantic due to strong wind shear and dry air.


The biggest headline of the 2016 Atlantic season was Hurricane Matthew. Matthew set all kinds of records. The fifth hurricane of 2016 reached Category 5 strength on September 30, the first since Felix in 2007. Matthew made landfall in western Haiti as a dangerous Category 4 hurricane on October 4. It was the first Category 4 to hit Haiti since Cleo in 1964. It lashed the country with major hurricane-force winds, flooding, storm surge and mudslides.

Matthew made a second landfall in east Cuba as a Category 4 shortly after. On October 5, Hurricane Matthew slammed the Bahamas. Winds gusted to 85 mph in Nassau as it rolled through.

It was an extremely close call for Florida but the center of Matthew stayed just offshore. A peak gust of 107 mph was recorded at the top of the tower at Cape Canaveral on October 7. The Jacksonville area saw record storm surge from Matthew. The storm surge in Fernandina Beach peaked at almost 10 feet above normal.

Hurricane Matthew then paralleled the Georgia coastline. A record storm surge of nearly 8 feet was recorded in Ft. Pulaski.

Matthew made its first landfall in the U.S. in McClellanville, South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane on October 8. Some of the worst coastal flooding since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 was felt in coastal South Carolina and southeast North Carolina. Inland flooding and river flooding continued for an extended period of time in South Carolina and North Carolina. Some areas saw over a foot of rainfall. Fayetteville, North Carolina received 14.82.”


The sixth hurricane and third major hurricane of 2016, Nicole, impacted Bermuda in mid-October. Nicole peaked as a Category 4 hurricane with 130 mph winds. While Bermuda spared a direct hit, the outer eyewall of Nicole lashed the island country with hurricane-force winds on October 13.


The final named storm and hurricane was Otto. Otto made landfall on Thanksgiving in southern Nicaragua as a Category 2 hurricane with 110 mph winds. It was the record latest hurricane to make landfall in the Atlantic Basin. Otto was also the strongest hurricane to make landfall so late in the season. The 15th named storm of 2016 survived the trip across Central America and kept its name in the east Pacific.