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Nov. 30, 2004 — The 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was one for the record books, say hurricane and climate prediction specialists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce . Nine named storms affected the United States during the six-month hurricane season - three as tropical storms (Bonnie, Hermine and Matthew) and six as hurricanes (Alex, Charley, Frances, Gaston, Ivan, and Jeanne). Three of the hurricanes (Charley, Ivan, and Jeanne) made landfall as major hurricanes. Nature’s favorite target this season was the state of Florida, which was affected by four hurricanes and one tropical storm.

“During late summer it seemed that each day’s headlines highlighted the impact of this hurricane season,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “Property damage was significant, but in the United States, loss of life – while always tragic – was minimized due in large part to heightened public awareness, preparation and response to our forecasts of these dangerous tropical systems.”

NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook issued in May called for 12 to 15 named storms, six to eight hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes. The season actually produced 15 named storms, of which nine became hurricanes, and six became “major” (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). In the month of August alone, eight systems reached tropical storm strength, breaking the previous record of seven in 1933 and 1995. The annual outlook is the work product of the combined efforts of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, Hurricane Research Division and the National Hurricane Center.

“What could not be anticipated this season was the high number of U.S. landfalling hurricanes,” added Johnson. On average, the U.S. experiences two to three landfalling hurricanes during above-normal hurricane seasons, well below the eight landfalls recorded this year (Alex is not officially counted as a landfall since the center of its eye remained offshore).

Details of the 2004 hurricane season storms:

This is the first time since record-keeping began in 1851 that four hurricanes have impacted Florida in one year. The only other state to have experienced this level of activity was Texas in 1886. Hurricane Ivan was an encore performer with two landfalls during 2004, first as a Category 3 hurricane near Gulf Shores, Ala., and second as a tropical storm over southwestern Louisiana.

Human and economic impacts were considerable. Direct U.S. hurricane-related fatalities totaled 59. Florida bore the brunt of U.S. property damage, with damage estimates (adjusted to year 2000 dollars) expected to eclipse the $34.9-billion in damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that one in every five Florida homes was impacted by a hurricane to some degree this year. Some 9.4 million Florida residents were evacuated from their homes this season.

Scientists point to the multi-decadal fluctuations in seasonal activity as a primary factor leading to the high number of hurricanes during 2004. During 1995-2004 eight of ten Atlantic hurricane seasons were above normal (the exceptions being the El Niño years of 1997 and 2002), increasing the potential for more landfalling hurricanes. During 2004, the hurricane landfalls were also related to a strong region of high pressure over the western Atlantic in the middle levels of the atmosphere , which helped to steer hurricanes toward the United States rather than out to sea.

“The 2004 season was one to tell your grandchildren about,” said Max Mayfield NOAA’s National Hurricane Center director. “I believe, and stress at every opportunity, that residents should have a plan, stay informed, and act when told to do so by their local officials. We should mark November 30th not as the end of the 2004 hurricane season but the beginning of the six months we have to prepare for next season.”

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source for weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

Media contacts:

Frank Lepore (305) 229-4404
Carmeyia Gillis (301) 763-8000 Ext. 7163

Related Web sites:

NOAA's National Weather Service
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Prediction
NOAA's National Hurricane Center
NOAA's Hurricane Research Division

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  Page last modified: 11-Mar-2010 9:35 AM