AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30 meaning we’re still not out of the woods when it comes to the possibility of landfalling storms. But how likely is it this late in the season?

October averages

October typically averages three named storms, one hurricane and one major hurricane in the Atlantic basin. Using average development dates, ~70% of storms tend to form before October 1st and ~20% develop during the month.

Why the slowdown in activity?

Due to more hostile atmospheric conditions (dry air and wind shear) over the Central and Eastern Atlantic, most disturbances struggle to organize after pushing off the coast of Africa. And even if they do overcome the unfavorable environment, cold fronts (boundaries of cooler air masses) become more frequent and dip further south over the United States and can “block” any landfalling storm along the Gulf Coast or upper East Coast. These cooler air masses will also cool surface water temperatures when pushing offshore.

So where do we see more favorable conditions? The Caribbean, the southern Gulf of Mexico and the western and central Atlantic.

Approximate number of tropical storms within 150 nautical miles of location – record: 1944-2020.
Courtesy: National Hurricane Center (NOAA)
Approximate number of hurricanes within 150 nautical miles of location – record: 1944-2020.
Courtesy: National Hurricane Center (NOAA)

Texas’ October hurricanes

Since record-keeping began in 1851, Texas has been impacted by 5 landfalling hurricanes:

  • October 1867 – Category 2 – “Galveston” – landfall near Brownsville
  • October 1886 – Category 3 – unnamed – landfall near TX/LA state line
  • October 1912 – Category 2 – unnamed – landfall near Padre Island
  • October 1949 – Category 2 – unnamed – landfall near Freeport
  • October 1989 – Category 1 – Jerry – landfall on Galveston Island
Hurricane Jerry (1989) track
Courtesy: NOAA
Storm total rainfall – Hurricane Jerry (1989)
Courtesy: Weather Prediction Center (NOAA)

Infamous October hurricanes

  • Michael (2018) – Category 5 – 74 fatalities
  • Sandy (2012) – post-tropical – 174 fatalities
  • Wilma (2005) – Category 3 – 87 fatalities
  • Opal (1995) – Category 3 – 63 fatalities
Hurricane Michael – Category 5 at landfall on October 10th 2018 (Courtesy: NOAA)

Looking ahead: November

November is typically a slow month for hurricane development as waters cool globally. On average, the Atlantic produces one named storm and one hurricane. The Atlantic hurricane season finishes November 30.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs June 1st through November 30th