The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 through November 30, but there are months when major hurricanes are not only more likely to form, but are also more likely to make landfall. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at which month is the worst in terms of Atlantic hurricanes, specifically those that affect the United States.
According to Atlantic hurricane data from the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, which operates under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), September is the month during which most storms strike the U.S.
Nearly 40% of Atlantic Hurricanes Form in September
There have been 1,038 recorded hurricanes in the Atlantic from 1851 to 2020.
Of these, 414 occurred in September.
Here is a complete breakdown of recorded Atlantic hurricanes, by month, from 1851-2020:
- January: 3
- February: 0
- March: 1
- April: 0
- May: 4
- June: 33
- July: 61
- August: 248
- September: 414
- October: 217
- November: 50
- December: 7
Looking at these numbers, it is easy to see why the six-month period from June through November is considered “hurricane season.” But why do most of these storms happen in September?
Hurricanes form when warm, moist air quickly rises from the ocean’s surface and collides with cooler air. This collision causes condensation, which eventually forms storm clouds and drops back down as rain. Condensation also causes heat to be emitted, warming the air above. The warm air rises and allows warmer, humid air to come up from the ocean. The process continues and escalates, with more and more heat moving from the surface of the ocean to the atmosphere. A pattern develops. Wind spins around a fairly calm center with the appearance of water swirling down a drain. A hurricane may continue to build and increase in intensity until it reaches cooler water or makes landfall.
The months of August, September, and October have significantly more hurricane activity than other months. During these months, particularly in September, ocean waters have reached their highest temperatures. They may increase to 80° Fahrenheit and higher, particularly in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. These are prime conditions for hurricanes to form.
When Atlantic Hurricanes Make Landfall
Hurricanes out in the open ocean cannot cause significant damage. When they make landfall, however, they can cause more devastation than any other act of nature.
From 1851-2020, 301 hurricanes made landfall in the United States.
110 of these struck in September.
Here is a breakdown of Atlantic hurricanes that made landfall in the U.S. from 1851-2020, by month:
- January: 0
- February: 0
- March: 0
- April: 0
- May: 0
- June: 19
- July: 28
- August: 81
- September: 110
- October: 60
- November: 3
- December: 0
But which states are most likely to see hurricane activity in September? Historically, the threat of major hurricanes moves from the west to east during the Atlantic hurricane season. Texas and Louisiana are at the highest risk of seeing hurricanes before August. Southern Florida is most likely to see major hurricanes in September and October.
Destruction is more likely when a hurricane has extremely high sustained wind speeds as it makes landfall. Major hurricanes, which include any Category 3 storms or higher (with sustained winds of 111 mph and up), are most likely to cause damage.
Here is a breakdown of the states that were hit by major hurricanes in September, from 1851-2020:
- Florida: 20
- Louisiana: 8
- Texas: 6
- Alabama: 4
- Mississippi: 3
- North Carolina: 3
- South Carolina: 2
- New York: 2
- Georgia: 1
- Connecticut: 1
- Rhode Island: 1
- Massachusetts: 1
The Galveston Hurricane of 1900
The most destructive hurricane in U.S. history struck in September. While the storm was first detected on August 27, it made landfall on the Texas coast near Galveston on September 8, 1900. It hit as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 130-156 mph. Storm surges of 8-15 feet flooded all of Galveston Island and parts of the Texas coast. When the hurricane struck, the highest point in Galveston was a mere 8.7 feet above sea level. These tides caused an estimated 6,000 to 12,000 deaths and property damage estimated at $34 million at the time.
The vast destruction of the 1900 hurricane spurred the construction of a 17-foot seawall that stretched more than 10 miles and was meant to protect Galveston from future storms. The city was hit again in 1915 by a hurricane of similar strength to the 1900 storm, bringing a storm surge of 12 feet, and the wall held. 53 people were killed on Galveston Island as a result of the 1915 hurricane, a vast difference from the thousands who lost their lives in September 1900.
Helping People & Businesses Affected by Hurricanes
People who live and work in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, and all states affected by Atlantic hurricanes must face Mother Nature’s might for six months out of the year. They are most likely to see major hurricanes in September, but they may strike in August or October—at the beginning or end of the official hurricane season. When these storms hit, homeowners and businesses may be left dealing with catastrophic property damage and less-than-eager insurance companies to pay their claims.
At Arnold & Itkin, our hurricane claim attorneys are committed to helping people and companies who have experienced the effects of hurricanes. We know how to deal with insurance companies and their attorneys, seeking the full and fair value of our clients’ claims to help them rebuild and move on with their lives. No matter what.
To learn more about hurricanes, check out the following blogs: