Hurricanes & Tropical Storms - Annual 2003
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As of December 12th, 16 named storms developed in 2003, which is well above the 1944-1996 average of 9.8, but consistent with a marked increase in the annual number of tropical systems since the mid 1990s (1995-2002 average = 13.3). Seven of the named storms were classified as hurricanes and three of those (Fabian, Isabel and Kate) were 'major' (category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale). Two named storms (Odette and Peter) formed after the traditional end of the hurricane season (November 30th). This is the first year since 1887 in which two named storms are known to have formed in December. Tropical Storm Ana formed approximately six weeks before the beginning of the season on April 21st. This is also the first Atlantic storm on record in the month of April. With the development of Tropical Storm Peter in December, 2003 became the longest tropical cyclone season since 1952 when the first tropical storm formed on February 2nd and the last one dissipated on October 28th, according to the NOAA's National Hurricane Center.
Both Isabel and Fabian were very long-lived and instense storms in 2003 and there were five additional tropical depressions which did not reach tropical storm strength. Six storms impacted the coast of the United States. Tropical Storm Bill came ashore in Louisiana in late June and Hurricane Claudette made landfall as a category one hurricane in Texas in July. Tropical Storm Erika brought tropical storm conditions to South Texas though it actually came ashore in Mexico in August. Tropical Storm Grace also affected Texas in late August and Tropical Storm Henri made landfall as a tropical depression in September bringing as much as 10 inches of rain to west-central Florida. By far the largest impact in the United States from this summer's Atlantic storms was from Hurricane Isabel in September. Isabel came ashore in North Carolina as a category 2 hurricane and brought torrential rain and tropical storm force winds to a large area of the mid Atlantic coast. However, Isabel reached category 5 in the Atlantic, the first storm to do so since Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Additionally, Hurricane Juan maintained category 2 strength as it came ashore in Nova Scotia in September becoming the strongest hurricane to impact Halifax in modern history.
In the Eastern North Pacific, the season began slowly, though 16 named storms had developed as of the end of November. None of the storms reached hurricane strength until Hurricane Ignacio in late August. Seven storms had reached hurricane strength by the end of the season, though none of these reached 'major' status (category three on the Saffir Simpson Scale). This is the first year since 1977 since no hurricanes have reached category three strength. The 1966-1996 average for the Eastern Pacific is for 16.4 storms to form, with nine hurricanes, so the Eastern North Pacific hurricane season was near average in terms of the number of storms, but the storms were of a lower intensity than the average.
Five storms made landfall on Mexico's Pacific coast in 2003. Marty and Ignacio were at hurricane strength when they came ashore in Baja California during August and September, respectively. Carlos in June and Olaf in September were at tropical storm strength when they impacted mainland Mexico, while Nora had weakened to a tropical depression when it came ashore in Northern Mexico in October. Marty was also a tropical depression as it affected mainland Mexico after crossing Baja California at hurricane strength.
No tropical cyclones formed in November. The Eastern North Pacific season runs from May 15th-November 30th.