In good years, the Texas coast gets two days of fall thanksgiving — the one that everybody gets on the fourth Thursday of November and one that’s ours alone on the last day of the month, when hurricane season comes to an official end.
The season that ended Monday was, like everything else in 2020, a doozy. Like a lot of things in 2020, it just wouldn’t end. Named storms consumed the entire English alphabet and burned almost halfway through the Greek.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 each year. This year it started very early with Tropical Storm Arthur on about May 16. The season, for practical purposes, we hope, ended about Nov. 19 when Hurricane Iota weakened to something less than hurricane strength over western Honduras.
The word “iota,” in English, of course, describes something extremely small; a speck. The storm of that name was anything but and serves as one of the lessons of the 2020 season. Iota was a massive Category 5 hurricane occurring near the season’s end. Only one other hurricane of that intensity, the Cuba Hurricane of 1932, has occurred that late in the season since we began keeping track.
Another of the lessons lies in the fact that the 2020 hurricane season was the most active on record.
It was not the most deadly or destructive, but the numbers it produced were sobering. More than 400 people died, and storms caused more than $40 billion in damage.
We were fortunate this year in Galveston County. Compared to what we’ve experienced in the past 12 years with hurricanes Ike and Harvey, the 2020 season brought mostly inconvenience.
Fortunate is just a fancy word for lucky, though, and luck never holds.
Among the few things we can be absolutely certain about in these uncertain times is that hurricanes are going to pose an increasing threat to life along the coast.
We can expect longer seasons with more storms and with more powerful storms. We have to accept that sooner or later one of those will be ours to deal with.
There are challenges in that certainty for us as individuals and as members of communities.
If you coasted through the 2020 season without getting serious about hurricane preparation, congratulations. Don’t be deluded by your good luck, though. Now would be a good time to get serious and think hard about what you’re going to do when an Iota is going to hit here.
We must all get more serious about climate change, the loss of wetlands and how we can better prepare for the coming storms. We have to finally accept that those are not political, but existential, questions.
Today, though, we ought to just enjoy our second day of thanksgiving, the cold north wind and the fact that one more hurricane season has passed without calamity.
• Michael A. Smith