Labor Day weekend and hurricanes. What do they have in common? They happen around the same time a lot in Florida.
Many people can probably recall a time when their long-weekend plans came to a screeching halt because there was a tropical system to keep an eye on. It makes sense given that the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is Sept. 10. A rise in activity is expected whether the storm ends up close to home or not.
Since 1852, Florida leads the nation with the most hurricane landfalls in the month of September. Just behind the sunshine state is Louisiana, North Carolina, and then Texas.
During September sea-surface temperatures are the hottest and we tend to see bigger tropical cyclones as a result given the right conditions. Read more about hurricane development here.
Below is a look back at hurricane history around the Labor Day holiday in Florida:
Labor Day Hurricane of 1935
One of the strongest hurricanes to ever make landfall in U.S. history was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. With a central barometric pressure of 892 millibars, this monster Category 5 hurricane made landfall between Key West and Miami on Sept. 2. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 was the first recorded and one of only four Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the continental U.S. Read more about category 5 hurricanes here.
More than 400 people lost their lives.
Hurricane Donna - Sept. 2, 1960
After hitting the Keys, the Category 4 hurricane decided to turn north passing through Naples. It then kept a northeast path eventually ending up near Orlando and then exiting near Daytona Beach a day later. Donna is the only hurricane on record to produce hurricane-force winds in the Keys, Florida, the Mid-Atlantic States, up to New England.
Hurricanes Gerda (1969) and David (1979)
Central Floridians may recall these two names. Right before the holiday weekends in both years, these two hurricanes had something in common. The exit points were along our Volusia and Brevard county coastlines. Although each storm had a different initial landfall locations, David exited near New Smyrna Beach while Gerda turned back out to sea near Cape Canaveral.
2004 hurricane season
In 2004 there were nine tropical cyclones that reached hurricane status and four of them were in Florida. Does the name Frances ring a bell? This Category 4 monster sent many Floridians north for the Labor Day holiday weekend. It made landfall at Hutchinson Island on the 5th and then slowly moved across the state exiting into the Gulf of Mexico just north of Tampa on the sixth as a tropical storm. Frances kept going and made a second landfall later that day in the panhandle. The heaviest rain fell in north-central Florida on already saturated ground from Hurricane Charley. There was extensive damage done to citrus crops as well as wind damages to space and military facilities at the Cape.
Hurricane Irma- Sept. 5, 2017.
Many Floridians watched as Irma rapidly intensified to a Category 5 hurricane on Sept. 5, 2017. It ravaged the Virgin Islands as well as Cuba. Irma was a category 4 as it moved toward the Keys on the 10th and then weakened a little as it made landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Marco Island. Irma moved northward bringing hurricane-force wind gusts were felt from Jacksonville to Miami. Tropical Storm force winds extended out up to 400 miles from the center. It reached northwest Florida by the morning of the 11th and then was a depression as it moved over Georgia. At least 44 lives were lost and damages totaled $50-billion. Irma is ranked 5th in the most costly hurricanes in U.S. History.
Hurricane Dorian- 2019
This was one slow moving scary storm that formed on Aug. 24, 2019 and lasted through Sept. 7. After moving through the Caribbean, Dorian rapidly intensified as everyone watched it make landfall on Great Abaco Island as a Category 5. It was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bahamas. Read more about Dorian and how the Bahamas is recovering amid the Covid-19 pandemic by clicking here. While Dorian didn’t make landfall in Florida, it was a close call between Sept. 3-5. The storm slowly turned northward, just staying offshore from the Sunshine State thanks to a mid-level system pushing it away from land. Eventually the hurricane made landfall over Cape Hatteras on Sept. 6, 2019.