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2018 Hurricane Season Life-Altering For Panhandle Residents

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Image: National Hurricane Center

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season comes to a close today. By the numbers, it was only slightly more active than average. But for those affected, it was life-altering.

It wasn’t the number of tropical storms or hurricanes that 2018 will be remembered by. For the second year in a row, it was more about where they developed. How strong they became. And unfortunately who was in their path.

It all began on May 21st, when Meteorologists Jeff Huffman and Cyndee O’Quinn were already watching a very warm Gulf of Mexico.

Alberto made landfall near Laguna Beach on May 28th, producing significant flooding and claiming eight lives from the Florida Panhandle to the Mid-Atlantic.

After a quiet June, Hurricanes Beryl and Chris formed in July and Tropical Storms Debby and Ernesto in August, but they all stayed out to sea or dissipated. This is when Meteorologist Jeff Huffman noticed the waters in the Atlantic were behaving differently this year.

And sure enough, there was trouble brewing in September. Beginning with a very wet Labor Day in Florida.

The tropical storm went on to cause $250 million worth of flood-related damages from the Gulf Coast to the Midwest…which pales in comparison to what happened next.

Before Gordon, the “F” storm was already on a 14-day journey across the Atlantic…a trek that would eventually come to a catastrophic crawl through the Carolinas.

Florence was the wettest tropical cyclone on record in both South and North Carolina, where several rivers recorded all-time crests in the days that followed. Damage estimates were at 18 billion, and it claimed 53 lives.

The next five storms – Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, and Leslie – did not affect the United States. Michael, however, became a major threat with less than five days notice.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Florida Panhandle, and it was the third most intense – in terms of pressure – to hit the U.S. With a storm surge of up to 19 feet and winds up to 155 mph, the storm claimed 60 lives and caused an estimated 15 billion dollars in damage.

The final two storms of the 2018 season – Nadine and Oscar – did not affect any land areas. Which was little solace, though, to the Florida Panhandle, which will be rebuilding for months or even years.


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