Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Hurricane season could be rough this year

Spin the Wheel of Fortune and see if what name it lands on. Will it be Beryl, Rafael, or William? Those are some of the 2024 names for hurricanes and the National Hurricane Center is predicting a busy year for tropical storms and even major hurricanes.

Hurricane season officially starts June 1 and will run through the end of November.

The National Hurricane Center is part of NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, operated by scientists through the U.S. Department of Commerce. The storm forecast this year calls for an 85 percent chance of an above-average active year in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico.

The predictions are for 17 to 25 named storms. Storms are named when they reach tropical strength of 39 mph sustained winds with a circular motion. A tropical storm becomes a Category 1 hurricane when it reaches sustained wind of 74 mph or more.

The forecast calls for 8 to 13 of the storms to become hurricanes with four to seven of the hurricanes classified as "major," or Category 3, 4, or 5, with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher.

Conditions for the active season include a number of atmospheric conditions coming together. One, is that the Atlantic Ocean is at near-record warm temperatures. Warm water feeds the development of tropical storms. Also, a La Nina pattern is forming in the Pacific Ocean, which can lead to more storms in the Atlantic.

In addition, there's a reduction in trade winds in the Atlantic. The trade winds can create wind shears that break of the formation of rotating tropical storm systems.

Orange County is along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and residents here have always known hurricanes are part of the geography. Spin the wheel and see what your chances of being hit are.

The county has been landing on the storm sections of that wheel of chances too many times in the past 20 years. Rita in 2005 was a Category 3 that ripped down thousands of trees, with many of them crashing into homes and other buildings.

Hurricane Humberto in 2007 was a fast-forming storm that developed into a Category 1 hurricane and changed paths to run through Orange County. The toll included the death of an elderly man in Bridge City when a carport fell on him, and the total loss of a lawyer's office in downtown Orange. Firefighters during the strong winds stopped in from taking out a block of commercial buildings.

Then came Hurricane Ike in 2008. Though the worst winds of Category 3 Ike hit more toward the Galveston area, Orange County's location took the storm surge from the Gulf up into Sabine Lake and the Sabine and Neches rivers. A third of Orange County was under water, including nearly all of Bridge City.

Though some tropical systems came by, no major ones hit here again until Harvey in 2017. Though the hurricane hit the lower Texas coast with Category 3 winds, it's meandering path sent it into the state, back out into the water, and then back again. It was categorized as a tropical storm when it sat over Orange County as it dumped 40 to 60 inches of rain and flooded vast portions of the county.

Tropical storm Imelda in 2019 brought sudden flooding rains to parts of Orange County, especially in the Mauriceville and Vidor areas.

In 2020, Orange County was hit with two hurricanes, Hurricane Laura and a few weeks later, Hurricane Delta. That year, the National Hurricane Center had to begin using letters of the Greek alphabet, like Delta, to name storms. The preseason list of storms had been used up.


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