Sign up for Action News Jax Newsletters

Delivered To Your Inbox

"Talking the Tropics With Mike": Review of the 2016 season - Dec. 1, 2016

by: Michael Buresh Updated:

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will be remembered in Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga. -- as one of the more active seasons in a number of years -- namely “Colin” (June 6th landfall).... “Hermine” (early September Panhandle landfall)... “Julia” (mid Sept.) &, of course, infamous “Matthew” in early Oct.  Click -- here -- for a podcast reviewing the '16 season courtesy News 104.5 WOKV.

2016 -- over the Atlantic Basin -- had 15 named storms which is several above the average & pretty close to early season forecasts.  The combination of a dying El Nino & above avg. ocean temps. contributed to an active season.  The original forecasts from NOAA & Colorado St. University:

                              TS             Hurricanes      “Major” (Cat. 3+)

NOAA                  10-16               4-8                 1-4

CSU                      15                       6                    2

Avg.                       12                      6                    3

2016                      15                      7                    3

For a broader overview of the ’16 hurricane season, go to the NHC.  NASA has provided a pretty cool library of satellite images from tropical cyclones during the hurricane season -- here -- . Image below courtesy NOAA.

2016 track map below courtesy NHC:

I’ll concentrate on the local area of Jacksonville/NE Fl./SE Ga. where the hurricane season truly kicked off with an early June storm - “Colin”.  This was the earliest date (June 5th) on record for the 3rd named storm of the season which developed from an area of low pressure near the Yucatan Peninsula.  The poorly organized tropical storm -- heavily weighted on the east side -- moved across NE Fl. & SE Ga. through the day June 6th.  Heavy rain fell across much of the area but the storm’s greatest impact on the local area was a tornado on the northwest side of Jacksonville.  The heavy rain was welcomed after a dry May + what would be a dry rest of June.

There were no tropical cyclones over any of the Atlantic Basin in July but activity picked up in August as one would expect.  Most noteworthy was “Hermine” which slowly developed from an African tropical wave that moved slowly through the Florida Straits into the Southern Gulf of Mexico where the system became a depression on the 28th & then a tropical storm on Aug. 31st.  From there “Hermine” moved northeast becoming a hurricane over the Northeast Gulf of Mexico making landfall as a strengthening Cat. 1 on Sept. 2nd over the Southeast Panhandle of Florida.  Arguably… most noteworthy is that the hurricane broke the Florida hurricane drought as the last Fl. landfalling hurricane was “Wilma” in Oct., 2005. “Hermine” for NE Fl. & SE Ga. was mostly minor but did cause a fair amount of wind damage over inland SE Ga. centered on Waycross, Blackshear & Jesup where some went several days without electricity.  Winds locally gusted to 40+ mph with some heavy rain that totaled a little more than 2” at JIA.

An interesting tropical cyclone – “Julia” – developed on Sept. 13th.  The storm was unique because the system was upgraded while over land – just south & southeast of Jacksonville.  The tropical storm actually developed & acquired most of its organization over water as is traditionally the case, but the low pressure area was over land for a number of hours before being upgraded by the NHC.  While winds were gusty, there was virtually no damage from “Julia” over NE Fl. or SE Ga. but rain from I-95 to the beaches was heavy.  Only 1.5” was measured at JIA but amounts of 3”+ occurred at the coast including 6”+ at St. Simons Island in Ga.

The storm that will be most remembered in ’16 was a classic tropical wave that moved quickly west off the coast of Africa in late Sept. & was upgraded to tropical storm “Matthew” on Sept. 28th over the Lesser Antilles.  The tropical cyclone slowed & steadily gained strength over the Caribbean becoming a hurricane the next day & reaching Cat. 5 intensity on the 30th (going from Cat. 3 @ 11am to Cat. 5 @ 11pm).  “Matthew” was the first Cat. 5 over the Atlantic Basin since “Felix” in 2007.  “Matthew” turned sharply northward over the Caribbean dealing a major blow to Haiti as a Cat. 4 with the eye passing over the southwest corner of the country on Oct. 4th.  Matthew’s closest approach to Jacksonville was 45 miles offshore (to the east) on Oct. 7th.  The coast took a true beating but impacts were far less inland – especially west of I-95 though the St. Johns River was a notable exception.  Rainfall at JIA totaled nearly 7” while coastal areas had 10”+.  Rainfall for the week reached as much as 15-20” from the beaches inland for about 10-15 miles.  Nearly 500 homes were damaged in Duval Co. alone while damage was in the millions of dollars along the coast with St. Johns Co. the hardest hit locally.  Storm surge was greater than 1964’s “Dora” at Mayport & Fernandina Beach with several all-time record high tides measured along the St. Johns River from Jacksonville to Palatka.  Peak wind gusts approached 100 mph at the coast…. 70-80 mph along I-95…. & 40-60 mph west of I-95.  The only true U.S. landfall was on the S. Carolina coast on Oct. 8th as a Cat. 1 hurricane where storm surge + fresh water flooding was extensive.

The USGS has posted before & after pics along the coast - click - here - .... - here - for views from the Carolina's to Florida.  Meanwhile.... Amelia Island has initiated a unique idea -- a contest using "Matthew" debris for sea sculptures.  Proposals are due by January 9th, 2017 - go -- here -- for details.

I have posted a very detailed discussion of “Matthew” including forecasting philosophy, maps and photos in the “Buresh Blog” – click – here -- .

Cat. 5 "Matthew" over the Caribbean Fri., Sept. 28th:

The rainfall forecast Mon., Oct. 3rd depicted a pretty accurate picture of the rainfall before & during "Matthew":

From the USGS: New coastal inlet formed near St. Johns/Flagler Co. line: