2006 Atlantic hurricane season

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2006 Atlantic hurricane season
Season summary map
First system formed June 10, 2006
Last system dissipated October 2, 2006
Strongest storm Helene and Gordon – 955 mbar (hPa) (28.21 inHg), 120 mph (195 km/h)
Total depressions 10
Total storms 10
Hurricanes 5
Major hurricanes (Cat. 3+) 2
Total fatalities 7 direct, 7 indirect
Total damage $500 million (2006 USD)
Atlantic hurricane seasons
2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008
Related article

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season was significantly less active than the record previous season. It marked the first since 2001 in which no hurricanes made landfall in the United States, and was the first since 1994 that no tropical cyclones formed during October.[1] Following the intense activity of 2005, forecasters predicted that the 2006 season would be only slightly less active. Instead activity was slowed by a rapidly forming moderate El Niño event, the presence of the Saharan Air Layer over the tropical Atlantic, and the steady presence of a robust secondary high pressure area to the Azores high centered on Bermuda. There were no tropical cyclones after October 2.[2]

Tropical Storm Alberto was indirectly responsible for two deaths when it made landfall in Florida. Hurricane Ernesto caused heavy rainfall in Haiti, and directly killed at least seven in Haiti and the United States. Four hurricanes formed after Ernesto, including the strongest storms of the season, Hurricanes Helene and Gordon. In total, the season was responsible for 14 deaths and $500 million (2006 USD; $585 million 2014 USD) in damage. The calendar year 2006 also saw Tropical Storm Zeta, which arose in December 2005 and persisted until early January, only the second such event on record. The storm can be considered a part of the 2005 and 2006 seasons, although it occurred outside of the June 1 – November 30 windows during which most Atlantic basin tropical cyclones form.

Seasonal forecasts[edit]

Forecasts of hurricane activity are issued before each hurricane season by noted hurricane experts Philip J. Klotzbach, Dr. William M. Gray, and their associates at Colorado State University; and separately by NOAA forecasters.

Klotzbach's team (formerly led by Gray) has defined the average number of storms per season (1950–2000) as 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes, and 2.3 major hurricanes (storms exceeding Category 3 strength in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). A normal season, as defined by NOAA, has 6–14 named storms, with 4–8 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 1–3 major hurricanes.[3][4]

Predictions of tropical activity in the 2006 season
Source Date Named
storms
Hurricanes Major
hurricanes
CSU Average (1950–2000)[3] 9.6 5.9 2.3
NOAA Average[5] 6–14 4–8 1–3
Record high activity from 1950–2006 28 15 8
Record low activity from 1950–2006 4 2 0
CSU December 5, 2005 17 9 5
CSU April 4, 2006 17 9 5
NOAA May 22, 2006 13–16 8–10 4–6
CSU May 31, 2006 17 9 5
CSU August 3, 2006 15 7 3
NOAA August 8, 2006 12–15 7–9 3–4
CSU September 1, 2006 13 5 2
CSU October 3, 2006 11 6 2
Actual activity 10 5 2

Pre-season forecasts[edit]

On December 5, 2005, Klotzbach's team issued its initial extended-range forecast for the 2006 season, predicting an above average of 17 named storms, nine of them hurricanes, and five classified as Category 3 intensity or higher.[3]

As in the 2005 season, the team predicted it was highly probable that at least one major hurricane would directly impact the United States. The forecast suggested an 81% probability that at least one major hurricane would strike the U.S. mainland, a 64% chance of at least one major hurricane striking the East Coast of the United States (including the Florida peninsula), and a 47% chance of at least one major hurricane striking the Gulf Coast of the United States from the Florida Panhandle westward. The team also predicted that the potential for major hurricane activity in the Caribbean was above average. A few months later, on April 4, 2006, CSU issued another forecast confirming its December predictions.[6]

On May 22, 2006, NOAA released its pre-season forecast for the 2006 season. The prediction was for 13–16 named storms, 8–10 of those becoming hurricanes, and 4–6 becoming major hurricanes.[7]

On May 31, 2006, Klotzbach's team released its final pre-season forecast for 2006, confirming its earlier prediction.[8]

Midseason outlooks[edit]

On August 3, 2006, Klotzbach's team lowered its season estimate to 15 named storms, with 7 becoming hurricanes and 3 becoming major hurricanes, noting that conditions had become less favorable for storms than they had been earlier in the year. The sea-level pressure and trade wind strength in the tropical Atlantic were reported to be above normal, while sea surface temperature anomalies were on a decreasing trend.[9]

On August 8, 2006, NOAA revised its season estimate to 12–15 named storms, with 7–9 becoming hurricanes and 3–4 becoming major hurricanes. The reduction was attributed to less favorable environmental conditions, a decrease in La Niña conditions, and the lack of a "very persistent upper-level ridge pattern over the eastern U.S. and western Atlantic."[10]

On September 1, Klotzbach's team also revised its season estimate, to 13 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes, citing a larger volume of the Saharan Air Layer and an El Niño trend in the Pacific.[11] The team again reduced the number of tropical storms expected for the season a month later, on October 3, with an updated forecast of 11 named storms, 6  hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes, citing the ongoing El Niño.[12]

Season summary[edit]

Hurricane Isaac (2006) Hurricane Helene (2006) Hurricane Gordon (2006) Hurricane Florence (2006) Hurricane Ernesto (2006) Tropical Storm Debby (2006) Tropical Storm Chris (2006) Tropical Storm Beryl (2006) Tropical Storm Alberto (2006) Tropical Storm Zeta (2005) Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
Hurricane Gordon on the top, with Hurricane Helene to the bottom-right

Tropical Storm Zeta formed on December 30, 2005, and lasted until January 6, 2006. Although the majority of its existence was spent in 2006, it is officially a storm of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season because that is the year in which it formed. Zeta joined Hurricane Alice as only the second North Atlantic tropical cyclone in recorded history to span two calendar years.[13]

The season started on June 1, 2006, and officially ended on November 30, 2006. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cylones form in the Atlantic basin.[14] Ten days into the start of the season, Tropical Storm Alberto developed in the Caribbean Sea,[15] and after four months of activity, Hurricane Isaac dissipated on October 3 south of Newfoundland.[16] Compared to the devastating 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, 2006 was not severe in terms of deaths and damage. Three tropical storms made landfall in the United States. The first of them, Tropical Storm Alberto, made landfall in Florida with winds of 50 mph (80 km/h), causing flooding and light damage.[15] Tropical Storm Beryl made landfall on Nantucket, but left little impact.[17] The third and more significant storm was Hurricane Ernesto, which killed two people in Virginia and two in Florida, as well as causing $500 million in damage (2006 USD).[18] During the season, only one tropical cyclone in the Atlantic – Alberto – affected Mexico.[19] Canada was affected by several tropical cyclones during 2006, including Alberto, the unnamed storm, Beryl, Florence, and Isaac.[20]

On June 20, an upper-level disturbance formed east of the Bahamas and moved westward across the islands. Between June 24 and 26, areas of convection developed occasionally, and a low-level disturbance formed. The system turned northward and upon reaching the Gulf Stream on June 27, it began to mature. It made landfall near Morehead City, North Carolina and moved northeastward along the U.S. East Coast. The storm contributed to severe and deadly flooding in the Mid-Atlantic States. While the NHC did not operationally classify it, data from reconnaissance aircraft, NEXRAD weather radar, and surface observations suggest it may have met the criteria for a tropical cyclone.[21]

A graph showing averages and statistics for Atlantic hurricane seasons

The National Hurricane Center's pre-season activity outlook predicted 13–16 named storms, 8–10 hurricanes and 4–6 major hurricanes.[7] They also predicted a high risk of at least one major hurricane strike to the Southeast United States. In the event, only ten storms formed during the season, the lowest number since the 1997 season, when there were seven. Five of the ten storms developed into hurricanes—also the lowest number since 1997—and only two attained major hurricane status, tying with 2002 for the fewest since 1997. Only one named storm was observed during October, the lowest number since 1994, when none were seen during that month. Additionally, only three named storms made landfall in the United States, the fewest since 2001.[2] Because of several factors, including a rapidly forming El Niño event, the Saharan Air Layer over the tropical Atlantic and the presence of a high pressure area to the Azores high situated near Bermuda, it contributed to a below average season.[7] Also, sea surface temperatures in the western Atlantic were just at or slightly below average. In contrast, sea surface temperatures during the 2005 season were well above average.[22]

Overall, the season's activity was reflected with a low cumulative accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) rating of 79.[23] ACE is, broadly speaking, a measure of the power of the hurricane multiplied by the length of time it existed, so storms that last a long time, as well as particularly strong hurricanes, have high ACEs. ACE is only calculated for full advisories on tropical systems at or exceeding 34 knots (39 mph, 63 km/h) or tropical storm strength. Subtropical cyclones are excluded from the total.[24]

Storms[edit]

Tropical Storm Alberto[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration June 10 – June 14
Peak intensity 70 mph (110 km/h) (1-min)  995 mbar (hPa)

On June 10, an area of disturbed weather associated with a broad low pressure area off the coast of Belize organized over the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea into the first tropical depression of the season.[15] It dropped light rainfall in Mexico, with a 24-hour total peaking at 4 inches (100 mm) in Peto, Yucatán.[19] Southwesterly vertical wind shear initially prevented significant development, but as it moved closer to Florida, the depression strengthened into a tropical storm on June 11. Passing over the warm, deep water of the Loop Current allowed accelerated development, and the cyclone reached its peak winds of 70 mph (115 km/h), just shy of hurricane strength. Subsequent weakening occurred as it moved over the cooler waters of the continental shelf, and Alberto made landfall near Adams Beach, Florida, on June 14 with winds of about 45 mph (72 km/h).[15] Losing its tropical characteristics, Alberto moved northeastward and produced heavy rainfall in South Carolina and North Carolina. The remnants tracked off the East Coast and transitioned into a powerful extratropical storm which affected Nova Scotia with high winds, heavy rain, and rough surf, leaving four fisherman missing offshore.[15]

Alberto caused record rainfall in North Carolina, peaking at eight in (200 mm).[25] In Florida, two people died,[26] and damage was estimated at $250,000 (2006 USD).[27] Later, the storm left four sailors missing about 230 miles (370 km) south of Nova Scotia.[15]

Unnamed Tropical Storm[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration July 17 – July 18
Peak intensity 50 mph (85 km/h) (1-min)  998 mbar (hPa)

A cold front exited the eastern United States on July 13 and subsequently stalled over the western Atlantic Ocean.[28] It decayed and dissipated, leaving behind two areas of low pressure.[29] The southern area near North Carolina became Tropical Storm Beryl,[30] and the northern system became an extratropical low on July 16 south-southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Moving northeastward over warm waters, the system separated itself from the dissipating front later that day. Convection developed near the center, and the system transitioned into a tropical depression early on July 17 about 240 miles (390 km) southeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.[28] Accelerating northeastward, the depression intensified into a tropical storm six hours later. Banding features became prominent, and after continued strengthening, the storm attained peak winds of 50 mph (85 km/h) late on July 17, while located about 245 miles (395 km) south of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Shortly thereafter, the storm encountered much cooler water temperatures after leaving the Gulf Stream. The storm quickly weakened as the convection rapidly diminished, and on July 18 degenerated into a non-convective remnant low. The remnants crossed Newfoundland before turning to the east-northeast and dissipating on July 19.[28] The storm greatly weakened prior to moving across Newfoundland, and as a result impact was minimal.[20]

Operationally, the storm was considered as a non-tropical gale, connected to a cold front. However, a post-season analysis provided enough evidence of tropical characteristics, indicating no frontal features and no cold air intrusion at the time of peak winds. Observations analyzed the storm as having a symmetric warm-core, whereas in real time it was considered subtropical. The National Hurricane Center officially re-classified the system as an unnamed tropical storm on December 15, 2006.[28]

Tropical Storm Beryl[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration July 18 – July 21
Peak intensity 60 mph (95 km/h) (1-min)  1000 mbar (hPa)

The same frontal system that developed the previous system spawned another low pressure area east of North Carolina. On July 18, it developed into a tropical depression, and with associated deep convection, the storm organized sufficiently to be upgraded to Tropical Storm Beryl on July 19. It tracked northeast and passed over Nantucket before dissipating southwest of Nova Scotia on July 21.[17] Waves along the southern coast of Nantucket reached 10 feet (3.0 m) in height as the storm approached the island,[31] resulting in four people being rescued by lifeguards from rip currents.[32] The remnants of Tropical Storm Beryl dropped moderate precipitation in Atlantic Canada, with totals of up to 3.5 inches (88 mm); in some locations 1 inch (25 mm) of rain fell in an hour. Moderate winds were reported along its path, which peaked at 60 mph (96 km/h) in southern Nova Scotia.[20]

Tropical Storm Chris[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration August 1 – August 4
Peak intensity 65 mph (100 km/h) (1-min)  1001 mbar (hPa)

By late July, a tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa and traversed the Atlantic Ocean. The associated convection organized and became a tropical depression on July 31 about 160 miles (260 km) east of Antigua. The depression tracked westward and soon intensified into Tropical Storm Chris before reaching peak winds of 65 mph (100 km/h) northeast of the United States Virgin Islands. The storm was forecast to strengthen further and become a hurricane as it moved into the Bahamas. However, Chris began to be affected by wind shear and became disorganized. The storm weakened to a tropical depression on August 4, and dissipated as it approached the Cuban coast on August 5.[33]

The storm's effects were limited to moderate rainfall in Hispaniola and Cuba. Cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean re-routed their ships to avoid the storm.[34] In Puerto Rico, rainfall from the storm caused the Fajardo River to overflow its banks. The overflown waters temporarily closed a highway in the northeastern portion of the island. Rainfall reached up to 2 inches (50 mm) across portions of Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas, and eastern Cuba, and reached 4 inches (100 mm) in some mountainous areas.[33]

Tropical Storm Debby[edit]

Tropical storm (SSHWS)
Duration August 21 – August 26
Peak intensity 50 mph (85 km/h) (1-min)  999 mbar (hPa)

On August 20 a tropical wave emerged off the coast of Africa for the Atlantic Ocean. Immediately following, the wave developed convective banding and a broad circulation. At 1800 UTC on August 21, a tropical depression formed to the south-southeast of the Cape Verde Islands.[35] The depression was a large, well-organized system,[36] and tracking west-northwestward it intensified into Tropical Storm Debby on August 23.[37]

Later on August 23, the storm attained peak winds of 50 mph (80 km/h), which it maintained for about two days.[37] However, Debby entered a dry and stable air mass and deteriorated in organization.[38] An upper-level trough increased southerly wind shear and displaced the convection from the center. The cyclone began to weaken, and on August 26 Debby weakened to a tropical depression before degenerating into a remnant low. The circulation lasted another two days.[37]

Hurricane Ernesto[edit]

Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS)
Duration August 24 – September 1
Peak intensity 75 mph (120 km/h) (1-min)  985 mbar (hPa)

Hurricane Ernesto originated from a tropical wave which moved off the coast of Africa on August 18. The wave progressed westward and reached the Western Atlantic, spawning a tropical depression on August 24 near the Windward Islands. It moved west-northwestward through the Caribbean Sea and intensified into Tropical Storm Ernesto on August 25. The storm briefly attained hurricane status on August 27 to the southwest of Haiti, before land interaction caused weakening. Ernesto made landfall near Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, early in the morning on August 28 as a tropical storm. At one point the storm was predicted to become a major hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and threaten parts of the Gulf Coast. However, Ernesto moved much farther east than anticipated, and made landfall as a tropical storm on the southern tip of Florida on August 29. Ernesto retained tropical storm strength as it crossed Florida and emerged from land near Cape Canaveral, and was just below hurricane strength when it made landfall again in North Carolina on August 31. Ernesto transitioned into an extratropical cyclone over Virginia on September 1, which ultimately dissipated over Quebec on September 4.[18]

Early in its duration, Ernesto killed five people in Haiti from rainfall. Later, two people died in Florida in traffic accidents due to slick roads. Damage was heaviest in Virginia, where heavy rains left severe flooding. Damage in the United States was estimated at $500 million (2006 USD).[18]

Hurricane Florence[edit]

Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS)
Duration September 3 – September 12
Peak intensity 90 mph (150 km/h) (1-min)  974 mbar (hPa)

Hurricane Florence originated on September 3 from the complex merging of two tropical waves, creating one large low pressure area. The disturbance moved westward and became a tropical depression in the open waters of the Atlantic. On September 5, it organized further and was upgraded into Tropical Storm Florence. With a disorganized structure and multiple circulation centers, Florence remained a weak tropical storm for several days, even after external conditions became favorable for strengthening. Florence tracked west-northwest and intensified into a hurricane on September 10 while south of Bermuda. The storm passed just to the east of Bermuda as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale as it reached its peak intensity of 90 mph (145 km/h). It moved north before losing its tropical characteristics and passing over the Canadian Maritimes as a strong extratropical storm.[39]

Large swells, rip tide, and undertow were reported on Bermuda, the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Hispaniola.[40] Florence affected Bermuda with wind gusts up to 115 mph (185 km/h) and heavy rain which left 23,000 houses without electricity. In all, the storm caused $200,000 (2006 USD; $234 thousand 2014 USD) in damage. Florence then brought heavy rains across Newfoundland as an extratropical storm, destroying one house and causing minor damage to several others. There were no fatalities as a result of the hurricane.[41]

Hurricane Gordon[edit]

Category 3 hurricane (SSHWS)
Duration September 10 – September 20
Peak intensity 120 mph (195 km/h) (1-min)  955 mbar (hPa)

A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on September 1. The wave tracked westward across the Atlantic for several days until it reached an area of relaxed wind shear and its associated low pressure area organized into a tropical depression. It moved east-northeast and was upgraded to Tropical Storm Gordon on September 11, while located over the open waters of the Atlantic. Gordon turned north, and became a hurricane on September 13. It intensified to Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and reached its peak intensity of 120 mph (195 km/h) on September 14. Tracking northward, it began to lose tropical characteristics. On September 20, the system affected Britain with high winds and heavy rain as an extratropical cyclone.[42] During Gordon's passage through Britain, 120,000 homes were left without power after winds of 80 mph (130 km/h) affected the country.[43]

Hurricane Helene[edit]

Category 3 hurricane (SSHWS)
Duration September 12 – September 24
Peak intensity 120 mph (195 km/h) (1-min)  955 mbar (hPa)

On September 11, a vigorous tropical wave moved off the west coast of Africa. The wave organized rapidly and spawned a tropical depression to the south-southeast of Cape Verde. On September 14, the depression intensified into Tropical Storm Helene while tracking west-northwest. Helene continued to intensify and was upgraded to a hurricane on September 16. The storm began to execute a northward track, and reached Category 3 hurricane status on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale on September 18, before reaching its peak intensity of 120 mph (195 km/h). It started to weaken when it reached the cold waters of the North Atlantic, and Helene dissipated on September 20, without having had major effects on land other than moderate wind gusts in the British Isles.[44]

Hurricane Isaac[edit]

Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS)
Duration September 27 – October 2
Peak intensity 85 mph (140 km/h) (1-min)  985 mbar (hPa)

Hurricane Isaac originated in a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on September 18. The wave tracked west, produced a tropical depression, and became a tropical storm on September 28. Isaac moved north-northwest and was upgraded to a hurricane on September 30. It turned north and reached its peak intensity of 85 mph (135 km/h) before weakening and brushing Nova Scotia.[16] Isaac produced moderate winds on land in Newfoundland, peaking at 60 mph (96 km/h) with a sustained wind of 46 mph (74 km/h) was recorded.[45]

Storm names[edit]

2006 storm names
Alberto   Helene   Oscar (unused)
Beryl   Isaac   Patty (unused)
Chris   Joyce (unused)   Rafael (unused)
Debby   Kirk (unused)   Sandy (unused)
Ernesto   Leslie (unused)   Tony (unused)
Florence   Michael (unused)   Valerie (unused)
Gordon   Nadine (unused)   William (unused)

The names listed were used for named storms formed in the North Atlantic during 2006. The list is the same as that used in the 2000 season except for Kirk, which replaced Keith. No storm was given a previously unused name, for the first time since the 1993 season. It was the first hurricane season since the 1997 season that no Atlantic names were retired. The same list was used for the 2012 season.

The World Meteorological Organization determined at its annual meeting in the spring of 2006 to again use names from the Greek alphabet, starting with Alpha, if the main list should become exhausted.[46]

Season impact[edit]

2006 North Atlantic tropical cyclone statistics
Storm
name
Dates active Storm category

at peak intensity

Max
wind

(mph)

Min.
press.
(mbar)
Landfall(s) Damage
(millions
USD)
Deaths
Where When Wind

(mph)

Alberto June 10 – June 14 Tropical storm 70 995 Adams Beach, Florida June 13 40 0.42  0 (3) 
Unnamed July 17 – July 18 Tropical storm 50 998 none
Beryl July 18 – July 21 Tropical storm 60 1000 Nantucket, Massachusetts July 21 45 minimal
Chris August 1– August 4 Tropical storm 65 1001 none minimal
Debby August 21 – August 26 Tropical storm 50 999 none none
Ernesto August 24 – September 1 Category 1 hurricane 75 985 Playa Cazonal, Cuba August 28 50 500 7 (4)
Plantation Key, Florida August 30 50
Miami-Dade county, Florida August 30 50
Oak Island, North Carolina August 31 70
Florence September 3 – September 12 Category 1 hurricane 90 974 none 0.2
Gordon September 11 – September 20 Category 3 hurricane 120 955 São Miguel, Azores September 20 80 minimal
Helene September 12 – September 24 Category 3 hurricane 120 955 none 0
Isaac September 27 – October 2 Category 1 hurricane 85 985 none minimal
Season Aggregates
10 cyclones June 10 – October 2   120 955 7 landfalls 500 7 (7)

See also[edit]

Contemporaneous seasons

References[edit]

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  36. ^ Stewart (2006). "Tropical Depression Four Discussion Number 2". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved June 6, 2008. 
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  38. ^ Franklin (2006). "Tropical Storm Debby Discussion Number 9". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved June 6, 2008. 
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