When it comes to tropical systems here in the Tennessee Valley, we don’t experience direct impacts but we can get hit indirectly by inland flooding, strong winds and tornadoes.

2023 Hurricane Preparedness Week

While the official start of hurricane season is still a month away, it is important to be prepared in case the remnants of a system were to track through our region. Having a kit together and a plan in place is a great way to be prepared ahead of an event.

Below is a look at some of the most impactful tropical systems to track through the Tennessee Valley in the past.

Hurricane Danny:

One of the most impactful tropical systems to track through the region was Hurricane Danny in 1985. Danny was ranked as a Category One hurricane with peak winds of 90 mph. During the midday hour on August 15, Danny made landfall near White Lake, Lousiana. This system underwent rapid intensification before making landfall.

As it was moving onshore, a front was pushing into the region and the Northeast. This front helped steer Danny towards the east-northeast as it moved further inland. This shift in the track brought the remnants of this system directly over the Tennessee Valley.

The main impacts we saw here in the Tennessee Valley were heavy rainfall and tornadoes. The increased amount of energy along with decent wind shear provided a favorable environment for rotating storms. In 1985, tornadoes were ranked on the Fujita Scale. The Enhanced Fujita Scale was developed in 2007.

A total of 13 tornadoes touched down in North Alabama. There were two F3s, four F2s, five F1s and two F0s. The strongest tornadoes were F3s that tracked through Morgan and Limestone counties along with a F3 that tracked through Cullman and Morgan Counties. These tornadoes led to multiple injuries and structural damage. The photo above shows the F2 tornado that tracked through the Arsenal.

Hurricane Katrina:

In 2005, one of the most destructive hurricanes at the time made landfall in the United States. After producing catastrophic damage in New Orleans, the system tracked north into the Tennessee Valley area. The remnants of Katrina lead to significant impacts on our area from August 29-30. The heaviest rain fell across areas west of I-65, where some locations recorded over six inches. In parts of northeast Alabama, less than an inch to no rain fell.

While no tornadoes formed as a result of this tropical system, the area did experience strong winds. Peak winds ranged from 40 to 50 mph, with Huntsville recording a peak gust of 48 mph. Albertville recorded an ‘unofficial’ peak gust of 70 mph.

Tropical Storm Lee:

Tropical Storm Lee formed in the Gulf of Mexico on September 2 and remained a tropical storm until it made landfall. Lee did make landfall along the Louisiana coast with peak winds of 57 mph. This storm system quickly weakened once making landfall because it was a poorly organized system.

El Niño Could Limit Tropical Development In Atlantic

While it was a poorly organized system, with an abundance of moisture in place, heavy rain fell across the Tennessee Valley. The remnants of this system were pulled along and approaching from the west. With plenty of tropical moisture in place and the slow progression, it led to heavy rain and flash flooding. Rain totals ranged from 3.5 to over 10 inches. The highest rain totals were observed in northeast Alabama. Portions of DeKalb, Jackson and Marshall Counties saw over 10 inches of rain.

Looking Ahead To The Upcoming Hurricane Season

Looking towards the 2023 hurricane season, on average there are 14 named storms, seven being hurricane strength and three major hurricanes. Colorado State University recently released its forecast for the upcoming season. They forecast this season 13 named storms will form, six being hurricanes and two being major hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will release its forecast later this May.

Once storms do start to form in the Atlantic Basin, the first named storm will be Arlene. Name lists are recycled by the National Hurricane Center every six years, which means the last time these names were used was in 2017.

Stick with the Weather Authority this Hurricane Season to stay updated on the latest tropical systems!