The 2020 hurricane season officially ended on Monday after spinning a record-breaking 30 storms into the books and leaving many Baldwin County residents broken and exhausted.
The benchmark came with a subtle reminder that nature is always in charge, as the day saw wind gusts as high as 35 mph across the county courtesy of a strong cold front that also delivered the region’s first overnight freeze of the season.
Since hurricane season began in June, 30 named storms swirled in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico with 12 making landfall in the U.S. This is the most storms on record, surpassing 28 in 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.
Scientists knew 2020 would be rough for the coastal U.S. In the spring experts examined factors such as ocean temperatures and upper level wind patterns to determine how active the season would become.
“2020 was expected to be very active,” said Cody Lindsey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Mobile. “A lot of factors go into the planning that determines how active a hurricane season will be. We certainly hope 2020 will be an exception.”
Hurricane Sally made landfall in Baldwin County in nearly the same location and 16 years to the day after Hurricane Ivan. Insurance forecasters have estimated damage from that storm to amount to as much as $3 billion.
Almost a month later, Hurricane Zeta skirted past the county with more damaging winds that destroyed piers and areas in north Baldwin that were spared by Sally.
Officials have submitted a request for the county to be declared a disaster area due to Hurricane Zeta which would help residents with cleanup and losses. Damage assessments are still being made, delayed by the overwhelming work created by this year’s hurricane season.
Jenni Guerry, director of the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, said there were lessons learned this year both by government agencies and residents.
“Every disaster is different, as well as each storm unique. We continually strive to learn from each situation and apply those lessons learned to future disasters to improve processes and become more resilient as a community,” she said.
After Sally, for example, FEMA resources were dispatched virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than in central locations that residents could visit.
Guerry said the combined stress of the pandemic and direct hit from Hurricane Sally made recovery more difficult.
“Recovery from a disaster of this magnitude with Hurricane Sally is expected to be a prolonged process. Disasters can be physically and mentally exhausting particularly when coupled with a pandemic. This year has been a historical year for hurricanes and the active ongoing recovery from Hurricane Laura, Marco, Sally, Delta & Zeta created complex responses and exhausted many federal resources,” she said.
Officials suggest that residents prepare for weather issues all year, not just during hurricane season.
“We understand that each family has unique circumstances and dynamics, however living in a coastal community, we must be aware of the hazards and threats that could impact our area,” Guerry said. “In this region, we are susceptible to hazards such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and numerous other natural hazards.”
Baldwin County residents can register at www.ALERTBALDWIN.com to receive alerts, notifications and warnings. Follow Baldwin County Emergency Management on Facebook at (https://www.facebook.com/BaldwinCountyEMA)