Hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 - November 30, ends today. And while swirler activity may have slowed way, way down since its peak in early-to-mid September, this was a devastatingly active year in the Atlantic for big storms. Alex, born in early August, was the first hurricane to strike; it blew past North Carolina's Outer Banks with 100-mile-per-hour winds. Lisa, which finally tired itself out on October 3 and never threatened land, was the last. In between:
There were 12 major storms this year, seven of which technically became hurricanes. That was pretty much in line with predictions from the National Hurricane Center, which had called for 12 - 15 named storms (these include tropical storms, six of them major).
Most devastating? All of the major hurricanes were devastating for impacted areas, ranging from Grenada in the Southern Caribbean to the U.S. southern and eastern coasts. But in terms of lives lost and travel hindered on a longer term basis, Hurricane Ivan was the worst of all, causing severe devastation in Grenada and Grand Cayman -- and slightly less damage to Jamaica. Jamaica was the first island to reopen; fortunately, Ivan had not pounded its major ports. Grand Cayman only began welcoming back cruise ships in late October and Grenada, which suffered worst of all, just this month opened itself back up to visitors.
Other culprits? Beyond their own severe impact on the communities they hit, hurricanes Frances and Jeanne were the most disruptive to the cruise industry. That's because they hit (or were scheduled to make landfall) on Florida's east coast -- home to the major port cities of Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Port Canaveral -- on weekends, when ships typically return (and depart again). Cruise lines were forced to send returning ships back out to sea, close down corporate headquarters, and delay or even cancel departures. Of the three ports, Canaveral was most severely impacted, and was forced to close for days after each storm, sending homeporting ships to substitutes like Miami and Ft. Lauderdale on a temporary basis.
Francis' and Jeanne's one-two punch also impacted cruise line private islands, all located within the Bahamian chain, which were closed for months afterwards until repairs could be made.
Speaking of the Bahamas, Freeport, which had been badly damaged by Frances, had literally just opened its port for the first time when Jeanne came to call. Nassau experienced only minor damage in both occurrences.
Passengers sailing on Atlantic crossings in the north Atlantic also experienced some wild rides as a result of storms, from hurricanes to tropical storms, blowing themselves out. Of particular note was a cruise on Holland America's Rotterdam, which experienced a technical problem that required the shutdown of its engines -- all the while surrounded by blustery winds.
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Celebrate! Today Marks End of 2004 Hurricane Season
November 30, 2004