One of last year’s many tropical storms was, in fact, a hurricane, leaving 2020 one short of the record

Chris Perkins, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·2 min read

The active 2020 hurricane season moved one step closer to another record Tuesday when Gamma, an early October storm, was declared a hurricane after an analysis by the National Hurricane Center.

The new hurricane designation for Gamma, which was previously regarded as a tropical storm, came after forecasters concluded its winds had actually reached 75 mph, up from the initial determination of 69 mph, as it was making landfall in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Oct. 3.

Hurricane-force winds begin at 74 mph.

Gamma’s new designation means the 2020 season had 14 hurricanes, one shy of the 2005 season’s record 15 hurricanes.

The 2020 hurricane season already had a record 30 named storms.

Hurricane Gamma, which churned from Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, according to the hurricane center, made landfall in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and didn’t threaten the United States. It killed six people and forced thousands from their homes, mostly in Mexico’s states of Tabasco and Chiapas.

Although the hurricane center still has five more 2020 storms to review during its routine postseason analysis — Laura, Teddy, Zeta, Eta and Iota — they were all declared hurricanes during the season so the total will remain at 14.

Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist, said the new designation for Gamma wasn’t unexpected.

“The darn thing came up into the Yucatan, made a loop, and came back down,” Kottlowski said. “It was kind of a funky storm.

“But I’m not surprised when they did re-analysis because it was close to being a hurricane when it was off the northwest coast of the Yucatan.”

Kottlowski recalled Gamma as being one of six hurricanes after Oct. 1.

“That’s just incredible how the water was so warm late in the season,” he said. “And again, this goes with the pattern. We went from a weakening El Nino to a neutral pattern then to a La Nina. And every case we’ve seen it happen throughout history that we can go back to, it’s always been a really active season, and 2005 was just exactly like that — we went from a weak El Nino to a neutral pattern right to a La Nina.”

Kottlowski said this year is different because we’ve already been in a La Nina, and we’re going into a neutral pattern.

“The question is, do we stay in that neutral pattern or do we go back into a La Nina?” he said. “That’s the fork in the road there. If we go back into a La Nina, it’s going to be another 20-plus (storm) year. If we stay in a neutral pattern, then maybe it’s around 16 to 20 storms.”

Hurricane season is June 1 through Nov. 30.