The 2020 hurricane season has been one of the most active and destructive in recent history, with record-breaking numbers of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes causing extensive damage to regions already affected by COVID-19, economic turmoil, and racial injustice. The Gulf Coast, Caribbean, Central America, and Northeast U.S. were among the hardest-hit areas. The season has exposed gaps and challenges in disaster preparedness and recovery, emphasizing the need for better early warning systems, more resilient infrastructure, greater support for vulnerable populations, and more strategic and coordinated responses to climate change, public health, and social justice issues.
Hurricane season sets records as storms batter coasts
The hurricane season of 2020 has been one of the most active and destructive in recent history, setting multiple records and disrupting the lives of millions of people along the coasts of North and Central America. With an unprecedented number of named storms, several major hurricanes, and numerous landfalls, this season has highlighted the urgent need for better preparedness, mitigation, and response to the growing threat of extreme weather events.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as of October 29th, 2020, there have been 28 named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher) in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. These numbers break the previous records of 27 named storms in 2005 and 12 hurricanes in 1969, while tying the record of 3 major hurricanes in 1961, 2005, and 2017. Additionally, the 2020 season has seen the earliest 25th, 26th, 27th, and 28th named storms on record, as well as the 10th named storm to make landfall in the continental U.S.
The 2020 hurricane season has delivered a series of devastating blows to regions that were already suffering from multiple crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic turmoil, and racial injustice. The storms have caused extensive damage to homes, businesses, infrastructure, and natural habitats, as well as loss of life and injuries. Among the hardest-hit areas are:
- The Gulf Coast, which has experienced multiple impacts from Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Sally, and Hurricane Delta, causing widespread power outages, flooding, and wind damage.
- The Caribbean and Central America, which have been hit by Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota, both of which made landfall as major hurricanes, causing catastrophic flooding, landslides, and destruction.
- The Northeast U.S., which was struck by Hurricane Isaias and Tropical Storm Fay, bringing heavy rain, strong winds, and tornadoes, and causing power outages and travel disruptions.
The 2020 hurricane season has exposed many gaps and challenges in the capacity of governments, communities, and individuals to cope with and recover from disasters. Some of the key lessons that emerge from this season include:
- The need for better early warning systems, evacuation plans, and shelter facilities that can accommodate social distancing and other pandemic-related requirements.
- The need for more resilient infrastructure, including power grids, communication networks, and transportation systems, that can withstand extreme weather and keep essential services running.
- The need for greater support and resources to vulnerable populations, especially those who are already struggling with poverty, health issues, and other inequities.
- The need for more strategic and coordinated responses, both within and between countries, to address the interconnected challenges of climate change, public health, and social justice.
What causes hurricanes?
Hurricanes are large, rotating storms that form over warm ocean waters and gain energy from the heat and moisture. They are classified based on their sustained wind speed, with Category 1 being the least intense and Category 5 being the most intense. Hurricanes can cause storm surges, heavy rain, and high winds that can lead to flooding, landslides, and property damage.
Are hurricanes getting worse?
There is evidence that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and intense due to the warming of the ocean and the atmosphere caused by human activities. However, it is also important to note that natural climate variability can also contribute to the variability of hurricane activity from year to year.
How can I prepare for a hurricane?
You can prepare for a hurricane by staying informed about weather updates, having a plan for evacuation and sheltering, stocking up on supplies such as food, water, and medications, securing your home or business, and having a communication plan with your family, friends, and neighbors. You can find more detailed guidance from the National Hurricane Center or your local emergency management agency.
What can I do to help people affected by hurricanes?
You can help people affected by hurricanes by donating to reputable relief organizations, volunteering your time or resources, supporting local businesses and communities, and advocating for policies and actions that address the root causes and impacts of hurricanes, such as climate change and social inequality. You can find more information from organizations like the American Red Cross, UNICEF, Oxfam, or your local charity group.