The term "drought" normally has a bad connotation, suggesting an unusual and extended run of drier-than-normal weather.
But the term is being used loosely within tropical weather circles to highlight the unusual run of good fortune that our nation has enjoyed: there has not been a 'major' hurricane landfall along the U.S. coastline since 2005, a run of nine consecutive hurricane seasons.
A 'major' hurricane is a Category 3 storm or stronger, with sustained winds of more than 110 mph.
We've earned this nice long break: during the 2005 season, the U.S. was slammed by Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma – all four as 'major' hurricanes at landfall. And as Louisiana residents remember all too well, two of those monsters were ours.
But since 2005? Nada over nine seasons for 'major' landfalls anywhere in the United States.
However, it certainly hasn't been all roses over the past nine seasons either. Louisiana has dealt with Gustav, Ike and Isaac – each of which earned a place in the history books. And while it technically was no longer a tropical system at landfall, 2012's Superstorm Sandy slammed the U.S. East Coast and is considered the second most-costly storm in U.S. history.
So how unusual is this current major hurricane "drought" for the U.S.? This is not only the longest 'major' hurricane "drought" on the record books (dating back to 1850), but it is more than twice as long as any previous "drought" over the past 100 years.
It's not like we haven't had the opportunity: since 2005, there have been 24 'major' hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin. While the U.S. has missed out on a 'major' landfall over the past nine seasons, our neighbors in the Bahamas, Caribbean and Central America have been pounded by more than a half-dozen 'majors' over this same period.
What's the cause for the U.S. "drought?" Researchers agree that it is simply luck – there are no sound meteorological explanations. Indeed, according to Dr. Phil Klotzbach (Colorado State University and protégé of renowned hurricane scientist Dr. William Gray), the U.S. has been the target of better than one-fourth of all 'major' Atlantic hurricanes in the past.
Given those percentages, what are the chances of 24 consecutive misses? Some would say way below 1-in-1000; maybe less than 1-in-3000!
In addition, Louisiana is enjoying an additional "mini-drought" of its own. After suffering through the most active 15-year run on record, with 18 'named' storms impacting the Bayou State, 2013 and 2014 were landfall-free seasons for Louisiana. That's the first back-to-back quiet spell since 1999-2000.
What if we go unscathed again this season?
Well, that would certainly be noteworthy: the last time Louisiana enjoyed three consecutive landfall-free hurricane seasons was nearly 20 years ago: 1994-1996. And even in that stretch, while 1995's Opal did not make landfall in Louisiana, 'she' was big enough to deliver tropical storm force winds to several southeast parishes.