Longest Named Tropical Storm in Modern History

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The top picture is Hurricane Dorian at peak intensity crossing the northern Bahama Islands. As of today (Saturday 9/7), Dorian has been a named tropical storm for 14 days. This ties iit with Felix (1995) for 3rd most named storm days by an Atlantic hurricane named in August in the satellite era (since 1966). While Dorian is a long-lived storm, it’s nowhere near the global record for a named storm.

Path of Hurricane John

The record for the longest-lived tropical storm is held by Hurricane John, which traveled all the way across the Pacific Ocean and then up past Alaska in 1994.

Hurricane John near peak intensity in 1994

The picture above shows Hurricane John near peak intensity in the western Pacific Ocean on August 24. Winds at the time were estimated to be 160 mph.

John followed a 7,165-mile (13,280-km) path from west of Mexico to the western Pacific and back to the north-central Pacific, lasting 31 days in total. Because it existed in both the eastern and western Pacific, John was one of a small number of tropical cyclones to be designated as both a hurricane and a typhoon. Despite lasting for a full month, John barely affected land at all, bringing only minimal effects to Hawaii and the United States military base on Johnston Atoll. Its remnants later affected Alaska.

The origin of Hurricane John was a tropical wave that formed off the west coast of Africa on July 25. The wave (clouds and an area of showers and thunderstorms) crossed the Atlantic without much notice. It crossed Central America around August 7-8. It became tropical depression 10-E on August 11. Later that day, it reached Tropical Storm strength and took the name “John”. A large ridge of high pressure forced the storm to maintain a track due west, rather than turn to the northwest then north as most tropical storms west of Mexico will do.

It took 8 days later (August 19) before the storm reached hurricane strength. On August 22, the storm reached peak intensity – a Category 5 storm with winds of 175 mph. The center of John passed 345 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands. They did get a couple bands of heavier rain and the surf kicked up a bit, but the effects of the storm on Hawaii were minimmal.

John passed the Johnston Atoll, where the U.S. has a military base. Fortunately, by this time it was back to Category 1. The peak gust on the island was 75 mph, strong enough to do some damage. Most of the 1,100 people on the military base were evacuated to Honolulu as the storm passed. Waves did top 20- feet on the atoll.

John then increased back to 135 mph on August 27 and turned to the northwest. By Sept. 1, John had decreased to tropical storm strength and was nearly stationary near the International Date Line. When John crossed the Date Line, it became (briefly) a typhoon – the name given to hurricanes in the Western Pacific Ocean.

John then regained hurricane strength and became a Category One storm with winds of 90 mph, passing well north of Midway Island. The storm continued moving northeast into colder waters and weakened. On September 10, the 120th advisory was released on the system, finally declaring John to have become an extratropical low pressure center, approximately 1,000 miles (1600 km) south of Alaska. The remnants of John produced a 46 mph wind gust at Unalaska, Alaska

A wider view of Hurricane John

John affected both the Hawaiian Islands and Johnston Atoll, but only lightly. While John passed over 345 miles (550 km) to the south of Hawaii, the islands did experience strengthened trade winds and rough surf along the southeast and south-facing shores, then on west-facing shores as well. The waves, ranging from 6 to 10 ft (1.8 to 3.0 m) in height, flooded beach parks in Kailua-Kona.[17] Additionally, heavy rains on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi caused minor, localized flooding and some short-term road closures.

John’s 31-day existence made the hurricane the longest-lasting tropical cyclone recorded in both the Pacific Ocean and worldwide, surpassing both Hurricane Tina‘s previous record in the Pacific of 24 days in the 1992 season and the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane‘s previous world record of 28 days in the 1899 Atlantic season.[9] In addition, despite its slow movement throughout much of its path, John was the farthest-traveling tropical cyclone in both Pacific Ocean and worldwide, with a distance traveled of 7,165 miles (13,280 km), out-distancing previous record holders Hurricane Fico in the Pacific of 4,700 miles (8,700 km) in the 1978 season and Hurricane Faith worldwide of 6,850 miles (12,700 km) in the 1966 Atlantic season.[10]

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