The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season broke records across the board—the most active on record with 30 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 14 became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including seven major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). The National Hurricane Center considers any storm that is Category 3 and above, with winds in excess of 130 mph, to be a major hurricane. For comparison, an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms and 6 hurricanes, 3 of which are major hurricanes. Additionally, the usual 21 name list used for Atlantic hurricane season was officially exhausted with the formation of Tropical Storm Wilfred in September 2020. The Greek alphabet was used for the remainder of the hurricane season, using 9 out of 24 letters with the formation of Hurricane Iota.
A record 12 storms made landfall in the United States, of which a record-breaking 7 were billion-dollar disasters, including 6 major hurricanes, listed below, and tropical storm Eta, which made landfall between November 8-12:
Hanna (category 1, July 25-26)
Isaias (category 1, August 3-4)
Laura (category 4, August 27-28)
Sally (category 2, September 15-17)
Delta (category 4, October 9-11)
Zeta (category 2, October 28-29)
These storms caused $41.1 billion in total damage, averaging $5.7 billion apiece, across the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts. Most notably, Hurricane Laura—one of the strongest hurricanes (by maximum sustained wind speed at landfall) to hit Louisiana caused $19.0 billion alone. As shown in the figure below, several hurricanes and tropical storms made landfall near the Nation's largest ports, which in many cases disrupted port operations and damaged critical infrastructure. The extensive days of port closures were highlighted in the BTS Spotlight: Tropical Storm Elsa Makes Landfall in Florida; BTS Map Shows U.S. Ports Affected by 2020 Named Storms.
For example, the port of Lake Charles declared a state of "extreme emergency," allowing for immediate repairs and reconstruction of cargo facilities after extensive damage from a nearly direct hit from Hurricane Laura in late August. Based upon observed tanker vessel calls at the port of Lake Charles, liquid bulk cargo handling was severely curtailed due to the extensive damage, declining by 38 tankers (95 percent) in September 2020. Similar impacts by hurricanes and tropical storms on observed vessel calls can be seen at other ports (e.g., Jacksonville, Mobile). Extreme weather, particularly hurricanes, affect coastal port operations and performance, especially when the ports endure lengthy recoveries due to extensive damage. Measures to improve port resiliency, such as absorbing storm surge and high winds, can improve reliability of capacity and throughput.
Nearly every port along the Gulf and South Atlantic coast endured closures and disruptions due to hurricanes and tropical storms in 2020. In total, 24 of our profiled ports (with 9 along the Atlantic and 15 along the Gulf coasts) were impacted by at least 1 hurricane or tropical storm. Additionally, the ports of Freeport, Galveston, Houston, Port Arthur, Texas City, and Wilmington (NC) were affected by 2 storms each, and the ports of New Orleans, Plaquemines, and South Louisiana were affected by at least 3 storms each. In total, all of these ports had one or more day under hurricane port condition Zulu during 2020 hurricane season. Under port condition Zulu, a port is closed to all vessel activity and routine port waterfront operations suspended by the U.S. Coast Guard's Captain
of the Port.