Photo: Hurricane Wilma was the last major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., in 2005. Credit: Thinkstock The U.S. coastline is in the midst of an unprecedented hurricane drought, with no major storms -- Category 3, 4 or 5 -- making landfall since 2005, the longest such streak in the recorded history of U.S. weather dating back to the 1850s. The last major hurricane to hit the U.S. was Wilma, a Category 5 monster, in October 2005.
And there's been a comparable dearth of smaller hurricanes as well, with just four smaller -- Category 1 or 2--storms in the past seven years. The last such storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Arthur, a Category 2 hurricane, which struck North Carolina in July 2014.
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Weather researchers, though, say that the hurricane drought is largely a matter of luck. And there's fear that when the streak ends, we may be caught dangerously underprepared for the inevitable monster storm.
Before we go any further, you're probably wondering -- what about Sandy? While that 2012 storm reached the status of Category 3 while it was in the Caribbean, by the time it made landfall in New Jersey, it had weakened into a post-tropical cyclone. Even so, the storm's size was still large enough to inflict massive damage on the East Coast.
In a study published in Geophysical Research Letters in 2015, scientists used a computer simulation to study the hurricane drought, and determined that such breaks between landfalls are relatively rare, but not unheard of. An 11-year break would occur, on average, every 177 years, they calculated.
Prior to the current drought, the longest period without a major hurricane was a stretch that started in August 1860 and extended to September 1869. Here's a list of all the hurricanes that have made landfall since 1851 From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,.
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But the break in hurricanes could give us a dangerously false sense of complacency, because it's only a matter of time before another big one hammers the U.S. coastline. Coastal populations are growing -- Florida, for example, has added 1.5 million coastal inhabitants and 500,000 homes since 2005 -- so there's more to protect, Washington Post Weather Editor Jason Samenow reports.
"Hurricanes are going to hit the U.S. again and people are going to be shocked by the magnitude of the disaster," Roger Pielke Jr., professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, told the Post.
The most recent hurricane to reach land in North America -- Hurricane Ingrid, which hit northeastern Mexico in September 2013 -- was outside our borders.
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