Attack of the Zombie Hurricanes

January 29, 2016
Unnamed Hurricane
NOAA

Right before Halloween, Washington and British Columbia were hit by a “Zombie Hurricane”.

Hurricane Ana attacked the Hawaiian Islands, died out and then its remains made a U-Turn and stormed the Pacific Northwest. Aloha!

Hawaiian Hurricane Ana before it became a “zombie”.

Lately weather watchers have playfully started calling the still dangerous remnants of tropical storms “zombies”. The problem is that a hurricane may lose its name, its structure and even its place on National Hurricane Center tracking maps, but remain dangerously strong, even deadly. The hurricanes may have died, but as long as the remnants travel over relatively warm water, they still have a lot of energy and flooding rainfall.

1991’s Perfect Storm (Officially the Unnamed Hurricane) was a zombie that came back to life. Image credit: NOAA

This year, the Atlantic was so hot that we saw two “zombies” cross the ocean and hit Europe ‒ the remnants of Bertha in August and Gonzalo in October. The warm Gulf Stream carries tropical waters across the North Atlantic, providing a “zombie” playground for dead and dying tropical storms. Indeed, the infamous Halloween Storm of 1991 (famously known as the Perfect Storm that sank the Andrea Gail and historically listed as the Unnamed Hurricane) was a zombie that turned back into a hurricane off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Normally the Northeast Pacific is too cold for this to happen. The California Current, carries Alaskan waters south, chilling the entire region. However, this year, warm El Niño conditions have pushed so much warm water north that a rare Pacific event hit the West Coast. The Central Pacific Hurricane Ana swept past Hawaii. Then the notorious Pineapple Express, the stream of moisture that occasionally brings tropical rain and weather from Hawaii to the Pacific Northwest, grabbed the remnants of Ana and took it for a ride. The hot West Coast waters, kept the remnants dangerously strong.

Zombie Ana drenches the Pacific Northwest. NCEP

The storm drenched the region. It flooded some areas but did little damage. Its last moisture reached as far inland as Montana. You know the weather is turning weird when Montana and Southern Alberta get rain from Hawaii! Aloha, indeed.

About This Blog

The column, “Weather Whispers,” is authored by James Garriss and Evelyn Browning Garriss, historical climatologists and weather addicts!  Whether you enjoy the science of weather or the fascinating folklore or just fun weather phenomena, it’s probably covered by these weather watchers!

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