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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

History-repeating hurricane paths in Florida amaze meteorologists

A portion of Anglin’s Fishing Pier in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla., collapsed as Hurricane Nicole made landfall early Thursday.  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Amudalat Ajasa Washington Post

Hours after Hurricane Nicole began its assault on Florida’s eastern edge, meteorologists marveled at the parallels between storms in Florida’s 2022 and 2004 hurricane seasons. In particular, the paths of two pairs of hurricanes – Nicole and Jeanne, and Ian and Charley – showed undeniable and eerie similarities.

Separated by 18 years, both pairs hit in almost the same place and followed nearly identical paths. In both instances, the storms’ landfalls were 43 days apart. On social media, meteorologists described the coincidences as “wild,” “amazing” and “crazy.”

Nicole and Jeanne

At 3 a.m. Thursday, Nicole made landfall just south of Vero Beach, Fla., as a Category 1 hurricane.

Eighteen years earlier and less than 15 miles away, Hurricane Jeanne made landfall at the southern end of Hutchinson Island the night of Sept. 25. Jeanne lashed the island as a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph before weakening to a tropical storm over central Florida, according to the National Weather Service. Along a boomerang-shaped path, Jeanne then turned sharply toward central Georgia.

Nicole was likewise downgraded to a tropical storm over Florida’s interior and is also projected to streak north into central Georgia, following a path just a hint to the west of Jeanne’s.

Ian and Charley

The tracks of Ian and Charley are also nearly identical.

Forty-three days ago, Ian made landfall near Cayo Costa, devastating southwestern Florida as a high-end Category 4 storm. It was Florida’s first hurricane of this season.

Charley, Florida’s first hurricane of the 2004 hurricane season, also made landfall near Cayo Costa as a high-end Category 4 storm.

In another uncanny similarity, the National Hurricane Center had initially predicted both Charley and Ian would make landfall near Tampa Bay, but both storms made a late shift and struck closer to Fort Myers.

Then, both Ian and Charley traveled northeast across the Sunshine State.

Is there an explanation for the coincidences?

It appears that the storm similarities were first noticed by Matt Devitt, chief meteorologist for Tampa affiliate WINK, who posted illustrations on Twitter early Thursday.

Meteorologists don’t have an explanation for the deja vu moment.

“It’s certainly a remarkable coincidence,” Brian McNoldy, a hurricane researcher at the University of Miami, told the Washington Post.

Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, agreed. “It is an interesting curiosity, but I think that’s all that there is to this,” he wrote in an email.

While 2022 and 2004 shared the strangely similar storm pairings, the two hurricane seasons differed in important ways.

Florida’s 2004 hurricane season was marked by extremely high activity featuring four major storms, rated Category 3 or higher.

That year, Charley started off Florida’s season in mid-August. This year, Ian kicked off Florida’s hurricane season in late September.

There were also differences in the storms’ intensities.

“Ian was a much larger storm than Charley and consequently caused more damage, while Jeanne was a much stronger hurricane than Nicole (and consequently caused more damage),” Klotzbach wrote.

Nicole is the 122nd hurricane to hit the state since 1851 – making Florida the most hurricane-ravaged state in the country.

Florida has the second-longest coastline – 1,350 miles – among states, behind Alaska. The state juts into warm, tropical waters, directly into the paths of hurricanes trekking across the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, which makes it a prime landing spot during Atlantic hurricane season.

Although the 2004 hurricane season started early and was extremely busy, 2022’s season started late and has had near-average activity.