1. Local Weather

2018 hurricane season wraps up with above-average activity

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times The coastal township of Mexico Beach lay devastated after Hurricane Michael made landfall near there in the Florida Panhandle.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times The coastal township of Mexico Beach lay devastated after Hurricane Michael made landfall near there in the Florida Panhandle.
Published Nov. 29, 2018

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration published their end-of-season summary on Wednesday, marking an unofficial end to an active Atlantic season that spun two devastating storms toward the shores of the continental U.S.

The above-average season, which officially ends Friday, will conclude with 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, of which two were major, which means Category 3 storms or higher with a wind speed of at least 111 mph. An average season has 12 storms, six hurricanes, two of which are major. No tropical cyclone activity is expected in the last two days of the season, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The most notable storms of the season were hurricanes Florence and Michael. Florence, once a major hurricane, weakened before stalling above the Carolina coast in September, dumping a massive amount of rain that caused devastating river flooding. Michael, which came weeks later, intensified rapidly to near Category 5 strength before slamming into Mexico Beach on Oct. 10, reducing most of it to rubble. It was the strongest storm on record ever to hit the Panhandle and had the third lowest central pressure and fourth highest wind speed of any storm ever recorded to hit the continental U.S.

More than 50 people died as a result of Florence, according to news reports. At least 40 deaths have been attributed to Michael.

Among the reasons the season turned out to be more active than normal are the lack of El Nino and warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic, the NOAA report said. El Nino, which is a phenomenon of warmer-than-normal water temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, causes high-level winds to sweep across the tropical Atlantic, making it harder to storms to coalesce into dangerous cyclones. But that didn't materialize, the scientists wrote. And warmer Atlantic temperatures just fuel storms, which feed off warm water.

This year was the fourth in a row that hurricane activity developed before June 1, the official start to hurricane season. Tropical Storm Alberto threatened Florida's Memorial Day weekend before making landfall near Laguna Beach in the Panhandle.

Contact Josh Solomon at or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.


  1. Twitter user Mark Kelly (@MarkKellyWPBF) posted a video of what looked like snow flurries in South Florida. [Twitter screenshot]
    This type of precipitation is still out of the ordinary for the Sunshine State.
  2. Michael Stevens, 28, left, works to stay warm with friend Cash Holland, 21, right, outside the Boys and Girls Club of Tarpon Springs' cold night shelter on Wednesday, January 22, 2020, where the homeless men were among 28 people who took refuge from cooler weather which dipped to 36 degrees in north Pinellas County overnight. The shelter is funded through Pinellas County's Health and Human Services department and provided shelter and a hot breakfast for those who came. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    After two frosty days, the bay area will begin its thaw Wednesday afternoon.
  3. An iguana lies draped on a tree limb as it waits for the sunrise, Wednesday, in Surfside, Fla. The National Weather Service Miami posted Tuesday on its official Twitter that residents shouldn't be surprised if they see iguanas falling from trees as lows drop into the 30s and 40s. The low temperatures stun the invasive reptiles, but the iguanas won't necessarily die. That means many will wake up as temperatures rise Wednesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) [WILFREDO LEE  |  AP]
    The low temperatures stun the invasive reptiles, but the iguanas won’t necessarily die.
  4. Jaclyn Campbell, 23, left, braves the cold temperatures while walking with her colleague Tysjah Pitchford during their lunch break in downtown Tampa in December. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Temperatures Tuesday reached the 30s for the first time since 2018. Wednesday will start there, too.
  5. Sea rise is pushing inland and amplifying the threats from hurricanes, wiping out one of the rarest forests on the planet in the Florida Keys. [MATIAS J. OCNER  |]
    A recent study has found that the Gulf Coast has lost 57 square miles of forest over just more than a century.
  6. Flooding from an October king tide in Miami Shores fills streets, sidewalks and driveways at its peak. [Miami Herald]
    And it could lose up to 35 percent of its value by 2050, according to a new report.
  7. Insulated with blue jeans, a coat, sweatshirt and hat, Richard LaBelle, of Dunedin, crosses the main span at the Dunedin Causeway on Dec. 3, 2019 while temperatures were at 46 degrees. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  TImes]
    Enjoy the warmth while you can. Bay area temperatures could drop as low as the 30s when a cold front comes rolling in next week.
  8. From left, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos speak at a summit held by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council's Resiliency Coalition on Tuesday at the Hilton Carillon Park in St. Petersburg. [LANGSTON TAYLOR]
    The first Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition Leadership Summit kicked off Tuesday. Local officials were there, and so was Florida’s new Chief Resilience Officer.
  9. Broken trees outside the GFR Media building as Hurricane Maria sweeps through the area, in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Sept. 20, 2017. Now two years later, Puerto Rico has been hit with a 5.8-magnitude earthquake before dawn Monday, unleashing small landslides, causing power outages and severely cracking some homes.
    It was one of the strongest yet to hit the U.S. territory that has been shaking for the past week.
  10. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) aboard NOAA's GOES East captured this view of Hurricane Dorian overnight on Sept. 4, 2019. The GLM continually looks for lightning flashes in the Western Hemisphere, both on land and nearby ocean regions and can detect all three major lightning types: in-cloud, cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. Alongside radar and other weather satellite data, lightning information helps forecasters understand when a storm is forming, intensifying and becoming more dangerous. [NOAA]
    The first space-based lightning tracker “has the most potential for forecasting rapid intensification.”