The end of summer is here, but hurricane season still has two-and-a-half months to go. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. As of this writing, there have already been 18 named storms. Analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows hurricanes caused nearly one-trillion dollars in damage over 39 years from 1980 to 2019. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates hurricanes cost impacted states $28 billion a year. These massive storms are destructive, especially for a particular area of the United States.
Hurricanes are a semi-regular occurrence on the East Coast, and the list below includes states you'd expect and some that might surprise you. There's a reason these storms make landfall in this particular area. And scientists believe the number of hurricanes and other named storms impacting these states is likely to increase in the coming years.
10 States Where Hurricanes Hit the Most
An alarming 120 hurricanes have struck The Sunshine State since official record-keeping began in 1851. Of those 120, 37 were Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm from 2018, was the last major hurricane to make landfall here. Florida's Northwest section has been hit 66 times, which is more than any other area of the state. The CBO report shows hurricanes cause more than $15 billion in damages to the state each year.
A total of 65 hurricanes have hit the Lone Star State since 1851. Nearly a third of those 64 registered as a Category 3 or higher. The state saw high winds and rain from Hurricane Laura in August of 2020.
3. North Carolina
North Carolina has been hit with 57 hurricanes over the past 170 years. Of those 55, only seven were Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Dorian was the last hurricane to impact the state. The storm dropped more than 15 inches of rain on some parts and left nearly 200,000 people without power.
Louisiana and Texas are right next to each other, but the Pelican State has seen far fewer hurricanes than its neighbor to the west. There have been 56 hurricanes in Louisiana since official record-keeping began. The most recent was Hurricane Laura in the summer of 2020.
5. South Carolina
Thirty hurricanes have impacted South Carolina since 1851. Hurricane Dorian didn't make landfall on the mainland, but wind and rain from the 2019 storm did impact the state.
Since the mid-1800s, 24 hurricanes have struck Alabama. Only three were Category 3 or higher. Tropical storms have hit the state in the past few years, but the last hurricane to impact the area was the remnants of Katrina.
Twenty-two hurricanes have struck the Peach State since 1851. The last hurricane to hit Georgia was Michael, the 2018 storm which brought with it rain and wind gusts as high as 115 mph.
Only 19 hurricanes have hit Mississippi in the past 170 years. However, eight of those have been a Category 3 or higher. Hurricane Laura hit parts of the state in August of 2020.
9. New York
This one is a little surprising. New York is located pretty far north, yet 15 hurricanes have struck the state since 1851. Perhaps even more surprising is that three were a Category 3 or higher. One of the most severe, Hurricane Sandy, caused billions of dollars in damages and killed nearly 50 people back in 2012.
Twelve hurricanes have hit Massachusetts since the mid-1800s, and only one was a Category 3 or higher. The remnants of 2018's Hurricanes Michael and Florence hit the Cape Cod region, but a hurricane hasn't made landfall in the state in almost 30 years.
Why These States?
Hurricanes need certain weather conditions to thrive. The two most significant factors are warmth and humidity. The hurricanes that hit the Eastern United States form off the coast of West Africa, where the water is warm and the air is humid. These two things combine to form spiraling columns of water that are pushed west by trade winds. Hurricanes amass strength as they roll across the warm waters of the Southern Atlantic where they either make landfall or move into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Future of Hurricanes
The frequency, strength and duration of hurricanes have steadily increased since the 1980s. Scientists believe this trend will continue due to the effects of climate change. Models created by researchers at NOAA show warmer sea surface temperatures could increase hurricane wind speeds by up to 10% and create storms that produce 10-15% more precipitation. This might already be a reality. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped up to 60 inches of rain in some locations.
Sea level rise could make hurricanes more destructive. It's tough to know how much sea levels will rise, but the average globally is one to four feet based on a scenario where emissions are low to moderate. The rise in sea level has the potential to increase storm surge. A big chunk of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy was due to storm surge.
The warmer sea surface temperatures also play a role in what path a hurricane takes. Research shows that more and more storms are taking a northward track toward population centers on the East Coast, which has the potential to cause more devastation.
The Bottom Line
Hurricanes tend to form off the West Coast of Africa where the water is warm and the air is humid. These storms are propelled east by trade winds and the warmer waters of the Southern Atlantic. This helps explain why ten states in the U.S. are the most hit by hurricanes, including Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New York and Massachusetts. Scientists believe climate change will produce more storms that are stronger and last longer.
Photo by Mike Mareen / GettyImages