Lots of storms but a slow finish: Busy 2021 Atlantic hurricane season ends today

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The intense 2021 Atlantic hurricane season comes to its official end Tuesday, a season that saw 21 named tropical storms and hurricanes.

This was the third-most for any hurricane season, behind only 2020's record 30 storms and the 28 storms that formed in 2005. A typical season sees 14 storms.

And for the second year in a row, the entire list of names for the season was used up, from Tropical Storm Ana in May to Tropical Storm Wanda in November.

It was also a record sixth consecutive year of above-normal activity.

But despite the high number of storms, 2021's hurricane tally of seven was right in line with the average over the past 30 years, according to Weather.com meteorologist Jonathan Erdman. It was only half of the nearly record-breaking 2020 total of 14 hurricanes, he said.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its sustained wind speed reaches 74 mph.

Eight of those storms made landfall in the USA in 2021, beginning with Claudette, named just after its center moved ashore in Louisiana in late June, Erdman said.

Fran Tribe and her dog Dave sit outside home destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Houma, LA. Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.
Fran Tribe and her dog Dave sit outside home destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Houma, LA. Monday, Aug. 30, 2021.

Ida the most memorable storm

Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach told USA TODAY that "obviously, 2021 will be most remembered for Hurricane Ida, which caused both devastation to the central Gulf Coast as well as torrential rain to the mid-Atlantic states."

Ida smashed into the Louisiana coast with 150 mph winds on Aug. 29, which was the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating landfall.

After battering the South and despite being downgraded to a tropical depression, Ida continued on a path toward the mid-Atlantic and Northeast over the next few days, where heavy rains caused catastrophic flooding. At least 53 people died from drowning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all, Ida killed 91 people in the U.S., according to the CDC. NOAA estimated Ida inflicted just under $65 billion in damage. That's the fifth-costliest tropical cyclone in U.S. history behind only Katrina, Harvey, Maria and Sandy, Erdman said.

'We're not out of this yet': At least 46 dead after flooding overwhelms NYC, Northeast

Klotzbach said "Ida serves as a great reminder that hurricanes aren't just a coastal problem."

Other notable storms included Hurricane Henri, which became the first named storm to make landfall in Rhode Island since Hurricane Bob in 1991. (Henri was a tropical storm at landfall.) And Hurricane Nicholas was the first hurricane to make landfall in Texas in September since Ike in 2008, Klotzbach said. Nicolas brought flooding from storm surge and heavy rain into the storm-weary northern Gulf Coast.

In addition, coastal and inland damage from Hurricane Elsa and Tropical Storm Fred vaulted them into billion-dollar storms, according to NOAA, joining Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas, Erdman said.

Season ends with a whimper

Though the 2021 season ended above normal, the biggest surprise probably was the quiet end to the season, especially in the Caribbean, Klotzbach told USA TODAY. "Normally a warmer than normal Caribbean combined with La Niña conditions create an environment that is more favorable" for storms.

He said, however, that October and November 2021 generally had stronger than normal wind shear in the Caribbean and were also quite dry, both of which suppressed Caribbean formation.

Wind shear tends to tear developing storms apart. "The only named storm that we had after Hurricane Sam dissipated on Oct. 5 was Wanda, which formed at high latitudes late in October," Klotzbach said.

In fact, the Atlantic had no named storm activity from Oct. 3 to Oct. 30 – the first time since 2006 that the Atlantic had no named storm activity between these two dates.

Most preseason forecasts said an active season was likely. NOAA said 13 to 20 named storms would form, of which six to 10 would be hurricanes. And meteorologists at Colorado State University predicted 17 tropical storms would form, of which eight would become hurricanes.

The Weather Channel and AccuWeather also predicted a busier than usual hurricane season.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 hurricane season ends: Lots of storms, a slow finish

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