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

Barbara Hollingsworth | August 27, 2015 | 11:17am EDT
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(AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Barack Obama is the longest-serving president to see no major hurricane strike the U.S. mainland during his time in office, according to records dating back to 1851 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC).

In the six years and seven months since Obama began his presidency on Jan. 20, 2009, no major hurricanes, defined as a Category 3 or above, have made landfall in the U.S.

In the period since 1851, only four chief executives prior to Obama had no major hurricanes strike the continental U.S. during their presidencies--but none of them were in office as long as Obama has now been. These four were: Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865); Andrew Johnson (1865-1869); James Garfield (who served only six months prior to his assassination in 1881); and Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893).

Obama is marking the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina today with a visit to New Orleans during a record 118-month major hurricane drought.

Katrina, the costliest and third deadliest hurricane in U.S. history, struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005 during President George W. Bush’s second term.

2005 was the busiest hurricane season on record. But ever since Hurricane Wilma came ashore in Florida two months later, on Oct. 24, 2005, no major hurricanes have struck the mainland U.S. and there is little likelihood that any will do so this year.

NOAA’s 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, which was updated on August 6, states that there is a 90 percent probability that 2015 will be a “below normal” hurricane season. This is the highest probability since NOAA began making seasonal outlooks in August 1998.

“The likely maximum number of major hurricanes has been dropped to one (from 2 in May)”, which is “well below the official NHC 1981-2010 seasonal averages.”  The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division maintains a chronological list of all hurricanes that have made landfall in the continental U.S. since 1851. According to this list, the three-year period between 1862 and 1864 was the longest stretch of time between hurricanes of any category striking the U.S.

(CNSNews.com/Katheen Brown)

Obama has seen just four hurricanes make landfall on his watch, none of them classified by NOAA as major storms.

Three were Category 1 storms (Irene in 2011; Isaac and Sandy in 2012) and just one was a Category 2 hurricane (Arthur in 2014).

Since he assumed the presidency in 2009, Obama has had three non-consecutive years with no hurricane activity: 2009, 2010 and 2013.

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

In contrast, George W. Bush, Obama’s immediate two-term predecessor, saw 19 hurricanes – seven of them Category 3 or above - make landfall on the mainland U.S. in the six years following a two-year hiatus between 2000 and 2001.

They included eight Category 1 storms (Lili in 2002; Claudette in 2003; Alex and Gaston in 2004; Cindy and Ophelia in 2005; Humberto in 2007; Dolly in 2008); four Category 2 hurricanes (Isabel in 2003; Frances in 2004; Gustav and Ike in 2008); six Category 3 storms (Ivan and Jeanne in 2004; Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005); and one Category 4 hurricane (Charley in 2004).

On Thursday, Obama will tour New Orleans neighborhoods that were inundated by Katrina and now largely rebuilt thanks to nearly $71 billion in federal assistance under the Bush and Obama administrations.

“The president will also deliver remarks on the region’s rebirth and what’s possible when citizens, city and corporate leaders all work together to lift up their communities and build back in ways that make them more innovative and positioned for economic growth,” the White House announced.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu also announced that Bush and former President Bill Clinton will also visit the city on separate days to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Katrina, along with various Cabinet officials, members of Congress, and federal officials, including current Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate.

Katrina made its initial landfall in south Florida as a Category 1 storm on Aug. 25, 2005. As it moved west into the Gulf of Mexico it quickly reached Category 5 strength, with peak sustained winds measured at 175 miles per hour.

The combination of a 20-to-30-foot storm surge and the catastrophic failure of New Orleans’ aging levee system left 80 percent of the city under water and “caused enormous destruction and significant loss of life,” according to NOAA.

Katrina had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph before making a second landfall in southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm made a third landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border later that morning.

(CNSNews.com/Zachary Leshin)

“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, NOAA stated.

Bush and Michael Brown, the former head of FEMA, were widely blamed for the agency’s slow response to the disaster. Former Mayor Ray Nagin and then Gov. Kathleen Blanco were also accused of failing to ask for federal help in a timely manner.

According to NOAA’s Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, Category 1 storms are “very dangerous,” with sustained wind speeds between 74 and 95 mph. They are capable of damaging building exteriors and knocking down some trees and power lines.

Category 2 hurricanes are considered “extremely dangerous” storms, with winds between 95 and 110 mph that can cause extensive damage and major power outages.

While all hurricanes are capable of causing the loss of life and property, Category 3, 4, and 5 storms are considered “major” hurricanes due to their sustained wind speeds of over 100 mph.

Category 3 hurricanes, with wind speeds of 111 to 129 mph, cause “devastating damage” to homes and infrastructure.

Category 4 storms, with sustained winds between130 and 156 mph, cause “catastrophic damage” to buildings and infrastructure. “Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls.”

The highest Category 5 hurricanes have sustained winds of 157 mph and above, which are capable of leveling everything in their paths, including homes, trees and power lines.

“Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months” after a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, according to NOAA.

Related: NOAA: Hurricane Drought Hits Record 118 Months

Related: NOAA: Record 117-Month Major Hurricane Drought Continues

Related: Obama: First President in 122 Years Without a Major Hurricane During His Term

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