The Atlantic hurricane season has set a record. The Associated Press reports Tropical Storm Debby, churning in the Gulf of Mexico, is the fourth named storm to form before July 1. That's the most tropical systems to form that early in one year since record keeping began in 1851. Other years have had three tropical storms form this early, but never four.
1886: Most active on record
The 1886 Atlantic hurricane season was classified as the busiest on record by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Three hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. before July 1, the only year that has happened. A Category 2 hurricane hit the Texas-Louisiana border, then two Category 2 storms hit the Florida panhandle. The largest storm that year was the so-called Indianola hurricane, a Category 4 monster that roared ashore in Texas on Aug. 20, 1886. The entire port city of Indianola was destroyed, not to be rebuilt. In mid-October, a rain-soaked tropical system hit Beaumont, Texas with severe flooding.
1936: North Carolina pummeled
The 1936 hurricane season had 17 storms, the second-most on record at the time. Three storms formed from mid-June to July. One of them made it to the U.S. when the last of these three systems made landfall near Brownsville, Texas, in late June. The small hurricane had maximum winds of around 80 mph. The worst storm of the year hit Cape Hatteras, N.C., in September. More than $1.69 million in damage was reported.
1959: Active Gulf of Mexico
Three tropical systems formed in the early part of hurricane season in 1959. All three originated in the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical Storm Arlene came ashore May 30, 1959, in Louisiana. One man drowned in the high surf in Galveston, Texas. An unnamed hurricane went through central Florida on June 17, 1959, before going northward to Nova Scotia. Thirty-three people died, mostly lobster fishermen in Canada. Eleven systems formed in the Atlantic in 1959.
1968: Hurricane Gladys
The 1968 hurricane season had three storms in June. Hurricane Abby caused little damage when it made landfall June 4, 1968, in southwest Florida. Abby was responsible for three deaths, according to United Press International. Hurricane Gladys was the most intense storm of the 1968 season, hitting Florida and the coast of the Carolinas in mid-October. An Associated Press article in July 1968 interviewed hurricane scientists with differing opinions. Dr. Robert Simpson predicted that year would be one of the worst hurricane seasons ever. Steven Lichtblau of the New Orleans Weather Bureau, flatly said hurricane predictions were impossible at the time.
William Browning is a research librarian.