Joaquin Veers Offshore, Leaving Major Hurricane Drought Record Intact at 3,633 Days

By Barbara Hollingsworth | October 5, 2015 | 1:00 PM EDT

(NOAA)

(CNSNews.com) --  Hurricane Joaquin, which reached Category 4 over the Bahamas on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of 120 miles per hour, was downgraded to Category 1 on Monday after failing to make landfall in the U.S., leaving intact an historic record of 3,633 days without a major hurricane striking the U.S. mainland.

Hundreds of people had to be rescued after torrential rains lashed the Carolinas and caused major flooding over the weekend, but a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Columbia, S.C. told CNSNews.com that “a nearly stationary low” pressure system was mostly responsible for funneling up to 20 inches of precipitation generated by Joaquin into the area as the hurricane veered offshore.

Joaquin’s failure to make landfall means that President Obama is still the longest-serving president to have no major hurricanes strike the U.S. during his term of office. The previous record was an eight-year hurricane drought in the 1860s, when Benjamin Harrison was president.

The last major hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland was Hurricane Wilma, which came ashore on October 24, 2005 during one of the most active hurricane seasons in recorded history, according to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center.

According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which categorizes cyclones on a scale of 1 to 5, Category 1 and 2 hurricanes have wind speeds between 74 and 110 miles per hour.

Major storms are classified as Category 3 or above if they have sustained wind speeds of more than 111 mph and are capable of causing “devastating” or “catastrophic” damage.

Four hurricanes have made landfall in the U.S. since Obama assumed the presidency in 2009, none of them classified as a Category 3 or above: Irene in 2011 (Category 1); Isaac and Sandy in 2012 (both Category 1); and Arthur in 2014 (Category 2).

However, meteorologists at NOAA point out that even Category 1 and 2 hurricanes are capable of causing death and widespread destruction.

Although Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to a Category 1 before it hit heavily populated coastal areas in New York and New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, it generated widespread flooding, causing the second highest property damage ($68 billion) in U.S. history after Katrina, according to AccuWeather.

Sandy was also responsible for 117 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Drowning was the most common cause of death, and 45% of drowning deaths occurred in flooded homes in Evacuation Zone A,” a CDC report stated.

Katrina, which reached Category 5 strength with peak sustained winds of 175 mph, weakened to a Category 3 storm before making its second landfall in southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005.

“Hurricane Katrina was responsible for 1,833 fatalities and approximately $108 billion in damage,” making it the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes to ever hit the United States, according to NOAA.

Related: NOAA: Hurricane Drought Hits Record 119 Months

Related: Obama Longest-Serving President Not to See a Major Hurricane Strike U.S.


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