What Are The Chances Of Another Katrina?

Narration: Joy Ng


As we head into the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, I bet you didn’t realize it’s been nine years since the United States has had a hurricane make landfall that’s been category 3 or higher. A category 3 or higher hurricane is considered a ‘major’ storm with winds greater than 111mph. Of course, storms less than Category 3, like Hurricane Sandy still wreaked havoc with heavy rains and coastal storm surges. So how rare is it for the U.S. to avoid a major storm for nine years? Let’s look back at the actual record of hurricane tracks for the last several decades. Green and yellow lines means they didn’t make landfall or they did and weren’t major hurricanes. Red lines are the major hurricanes that did make landfall. Some years like 1964, 2004, and 2005 have seen 2 or more storms hit our coasts. We can also see that gaps of a few seasons with no major storms is common. But none as long as nine years. A new NASA study used a model to gauge hurricane activity. They found that every year, there’s roughly a 40% chance that one or more category 3 storms will make landfall. And that a nine-year gap only comes along every 177 years. But that doesn’t make a major storm any more likely for this year. Just like when you flip a coin 9 times in a row and you get tails every time, the odds of heads vs. tails on that tenth flip remain the same. Just to be clear, it hasn’t been a quiet nine years for hurricanes. They’ve been out there. It’s just that the major storms haven’t made landfall. Scientists say they haven’t found a single persistent cause for this, it could just be luck.