At a Glance
- The tropical Atlantic Basin can still support hurricanes even through the end of the year.
- This happened as recently as 2016, and there was a Thanksgiving landfall.
Although we’re entering the last month of the official Atlantic hurricane season, there have been numerous past hurricanes that have changed lives and coastlines over the years in November.
Since 1950, there have been 36 November named Atlantic Basin storms, 21 of which have become hurricanes. Based on this history, you can expect one named storm every other November, and one November hurricane roughly every three years.
Here are the five most notable Atlantic November hurricanes in recent times:
Otto first formed on Nov. 20, 2016 in the extreme southwest Caribbean Sea. After meandering nearly in place, Otto rapidly gained strength as a hurricane on Nov. 23, and attained Category 3 status the following day.
Otto quickly made landfall in deep southern Nicaragua just a dozen miles north of the Costa Rica border during America’s Thanksgiving holiday just hours after reaching peak intensity.
Otto was the record latest in season Atlantic Basin hurricane landfall since at least 1851, and it took a strange path westward through Nicaragua and Costa Rica into the eastern Pacific. This landfall in Central America was also the farthest south an Atlantic Basin landfall has taken place on record.
Otto continued southwestward in the far eastern Pacific for a couple of days until environmental conditions caused Otto to weaken.
For more records from this historic hurricane, see our full recap.
Ida formed on Nov. 4 and first made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua after passing near the Corn Islands.
It weakened to a depression before reemerging over the Caribbean Sea, eventually peaking as a Category 2 hurricane over the Yucatan Channel on Nov. 8 with 105 mph winds.
Ida moved north into the Gulf of Mexico and became a post-tropical storm shortly before reaching the Alabama coast on Nov. 10.
Two days later, the remnants of Ida had transformed into a powerful non-tropical low pressure center near the coast of the Carolinas. The Weather Channel dubbed this storm “Nor’Ida”, a combination of the term nor’easter and Ida.
This new, fairly strong non-tropical low caused far more problems for the U.S. than the original tropical cyclone did.
It stalled near the Outer Banks before slowly drifting east. This, combined with strong high pressure over New England, created a prolonged period of onshore winds across much of the Mid-Atlantic region.
Three years before Superstorm Sandy, Nor’Ida did an estimated $180 million in damage to towns along the New Jersey shore. Delaware was also hard hit as the storm carried away at least four million cubic yards of sand.
The Hampton Roads area around Norfolk, Virginia, experienced serious coastal flooding from storm surge, freshwater flooding from up to 18 inches of rain, and strong damaging wind gusts to 75 mph.
Closer to the center of Nor’Ida, the Outer Banks took a hammering with locally a foot of rain and relentless coastal flooding that led to the closure of Highway 12. That road was temporarily buried under feet of sand.
Hurricane Paloma was the second-strongest November Atlantic basin hurricane on record.
As many November tropical cyclones do, it formed in the Caribbean Sea. Disturbed weather in the southwest Caribbean Nov. 1 gradually coalesced into a depression Nov. 5 southeast of the Honduras-Nicaragua border.
Paloma eventually moved into a very favorable environment of high sea-surface temperatures and diverging winds aloft, both of which encouraged powerful thunderstorms to organize around its core.
By the time it grazed Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, Paloma had rapidly intensified into a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds reaching 145 mph on the morning of Nov. 8. Practically every structure on Cayman Brac was destroyed, but fortunately nobody was reported hurt.
Paloma made landfall near Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba, as a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds later that evening; 1,453 homes were destroyed and 12,159 damaged according to the Cuban government. Paloma rapidly weakened to a depression the next day as land interaction and unfavorable winds aloft ripped it apart.
Paloma limped past the northern coast of Cuba before doing a U-turn, returning to the Caribbean, and then swinging northwestward into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, eventually bringing some heavy rain to parts of Florida as a remnant low.
Lenny is the most powerful Atlantic basin hurricane in the satellite era in the month of November.
But Lenny is also remembered for its unusual movement. Most tropical storms and hurricanes take a general east-to-west path through the Caribbean Sea, but not Lenny.
Lenny formed as a typical November tropical depression in the western Caribbean on Nov. 13. But instead of being pulled north or northwest, it immediately began moving toward the east, and more or less stayed on this trajectory for its entire life with some slight jogs.
In its official report on Lenny, the National Hurricane Center said this long west-to-east track through the Caribbean was “unprecedented in the 113-year Atlantic basin tropical cyclone record.”
Unfortunately, one of those jogs in the path took Lenny directly into the northern Lesser Antilles Nov. 17 at its peak intensity of 155 miles per hour, a high-end Category 4 storm. While those maximum winds occurred over water, the storm still battered the Virgin Islands, including a 112-mph gust on St. Croix.
Damaging winds also struck Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Guadeloupe, Saba, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Storm surge and damaging waves affected many of these areas as well. Fortunately, Lenny weakened significantly during its slow push through the islands, diminishing to tropical storm status before moving east of the Antilles.
In all, 17 people died as a direct result of Lenny, which did an estimated $330 million in damage in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands alone.
Lenny eventually dissipated about 700 miles east of the Leeward Islands on Nov. 23. Because of Lenny’s destruction, its name was retired and replaced with Lee on the 2005 naming list.
No other hurricane in modern recordkeeping has made landfall on the U.S. mainland later than Hurricane Kate.
Unlike the other cyclones on this list, Kate formed over the Atlantic Ocean, less than 200 miles north of the Virgin Islands. After forming as a tropical storm on Nov. 15, it became a hurricane the next day, and remained one until landfall.
Kate moved through the southeastern Bahamas as a Category 1 hurricane on the night of Nov. 17-18. It then grazed the northern coast of Cuba on Nov. 19, producing gusts as high as 105 mph. Even that passage over land didn’t put much of a dent in Kate, and it remained a hurricane as it emerged into the Florida Straits, passing within 85 miles of Key West where official gusts reached 69 mph.
As Kate curved northwest into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, it intensified even further, becoming a Category 3 hurricane with top sustained winds estimated at 120 mph.
Kate approached the Florida Panhandle, where it made landfall near Mexico Beach on Nov. 21, just one week before Thanksgiving, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph. It was the sixth hurricane to make landfall on the U.S. mainland in 1985. The storm felled many trees, causing extensive power outages in the Tallahassee area. Storm surge reached 11 feet at Cape San Blas.
One of Kate’s biggest impacts was on the local oyster industry near Apalachicola, Fla. The oyster beds were severely damaged by Hurricane Elena’s close approach earlier in the season, and Kate destroyed what little was left. Many local oystermen lost their jobs.
Inland, rain-related flooding from Kate damaged the cotton, soybean, and pecan crops in south Georgia. Spotty power outages and flash flooding extended northeast into the Carolinas as Kate moved northeast and weakened.