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Weekly Weather Event -Week of May 10

May 14, 2021

On May 10th, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) released a Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Zeta, which took place between October 24th and 29th October 2020. In this report, the NHC noted that forecasting Zeta’s intensity was more difficult than in a normal hurricane due to the hurricane’s rapid intensification. This along with the hurricane’s interactions with the Louisiana coast resulted in difficult data gathering conditions; as an example, the last aircraft that flew through the hurricane returned to the storm as Zeta was already going onshore.

After reanalyzing the data gathered throughout the storm, the NHC upgraded the hurricane from a high-end Category 2 to a low-end Category 3 with winds reaching 115 mph at landfall, putting Zeta into the category of a major hurricane. This makes Zeta the latest U.S. landfall of a major hurricane, previously held by the Tampa Bay Hurricane of 1921. Additionally, this change causes the 2020 hurricane season to match the 2005 season with the most major hurricanes in a single season.

While this upgrade is important for categorizing major hurricanes, the NHC acknowledges that this change does not have any practical changes to storm damages. Five people died from the storm, 75 were injured, and there were an estimated $4.4 billion in damages in the U.S. alone.