A Look Back on Hermine

We asked Meteorologist Dr. Matt Sitkowski about his experience with Hermine and his take on the storm now that it’s no longer impacting the eastern coast.

What was the formation process of Hermine like?
We started watching this system in mid-August when it came off the coast of Africa. The National Hurricane Center declared the system ‘Invest 99L’ on the afternoon of August 18. This just means they track the system more closely and start to run more storm-specific computer models. It stayed an invest for over a week. At times, the organization around the storm’s circulation suggested intensification was imminent only to fall apart hours later. For several days there were many ups and downs until finally there was enough sustained thunderstorm activity and organization on August 28th, when Tropical Depression 9 formed. It would later become Tropical Storm Hermine on the 31st and then a Hurricane on Sept. 1, right before landfall on the Florida Panhandle.

Why was it “the storm that never quit”?
While an Invest (99L) over the Atlantic, the circulation that would eventually become Hermine never went away. Thunderstorms would blow up, which you need for tropical development, but would fade away for a few hours. The storm was also fending off shear, winds changing speed and direction with height, which kept thunderstorms from staying over the same spot to lower the pressure and increase surface winds. But there was enough pulsing of thunderstorms, enough pockets of light shear, and there was always plenty of warm water that helped keep the circulation going. It truly was amazing watching this storm…I felt like it tried just as hard to intensify as it did weaken – prior to entering the Gulf of Mexico.

How will this storm be remembered?
I’m sure for millions of people, they will remember this as the storm that caused damage to personal items, knocked out their power, or spoiled Labor Day Weekend plans. If you live in Cedar Key, Florida you will remember this as the storm that produced (preliminary) record surge – bashing waves that prove once again the power of moving water. If you are a meteorologist that tracked this storm for 20+ days, you will remember the tough forecasts (there were plenty of those), the fascinating formation process, the quick intensification to hurricane status as the storm approached Florida, and the beast of a post-tropical cyclone this thing became off the Northeast coast. Hermine was exhausting. Toward the end of the marathon came the trickiest part of the entire forecast. Large, slow-moving transitioning storms (tropical to post-tropical) that interact with other disturbances in the atmosphere tend to do what they want, and Hermine was no exception.

In your opinion, did state and local governments take the necessary precautions to keep people safe?
I know there were cancellations, voluntary evacuations, and expensive measures undertaken as Hermine approached and meandered up the Northeast coast. It’s a tougher pill to swallow during a holiday weekend, but these precautions are necessary. The National Hurricane Center does not put up warnings unless they are warranted. I think most forecasters couched this as a tough forecast, too. I assure you there were some computer model runs that would have been devastating, especially some for the Jersey Shore. So while there may have been less people on the boardwalk this holiday weekend, it’s a better scenario than having to build a new boardwalk completely.

Have we learned anything from Hermine that we could apply to future hurricanes/tropical storms? If so, what?
With every storm comes opportunities to learn and I am sure many people have learned some important lessons from this storm. But I think for many more people this storm served as a huge reminder. This was the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma (2005). People forget how strong 60+ mph winds are…they forget the power of storm surge and the damage it can do. During the past 3 weeks, I was reminded that my 5-day and 5-hour forecasts can be wrong. That I need to choose words carefully when people are hanging on them to make decisions. That there is so much I (and the meteorologist community) need to better understand about hurricane forecasting. And finally…that I am surrounded by brilliant people that each bring something to the table. The team here at The Weather Channel works well together. Through all the long hours we respect, listen to, and support one another. And whether it’s a meteorologist, television producer or camera operator, we all know the end goal is to communicate the forecast in such a way it better prepares people and ultimately saves lives.


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11 Comments


  1. I live in Spring Hill, Florida, and we had a tornado warning with a possible tornado going through the area that we live in, right off of Rt. 19. Was there an actual touchdown and any damages? This was on that Thursday that Hermine decided to pay a visit.

  2. I live near Gainesville, and my husband and I decided to stay at a hotel for the night because we have a lot of trees around our home. When we came back home, there was one tree that fell, and many branches all around. But, we were lucky… our house was fine. I thank the LORD for getting us through the storm safe & sound!

  3. JOHN S >> NJ. In the beginning, the long range forecasts were for all kinds of rain, then as Herm came closer to us and just floated around in the ocean at the Jersey shore, all it did was chew up our beaches again. It truly is amazing to me how so much time, energy, efforts and attempts to replenish sand to our NJ beaches that got wiped out by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 get wiped out by just one of these..

  4. They forecasted rain,rain,rain for Sunday’s weather, yet on Saturday night we had the most beautiful sunset.Sunday morning there was a rainbow totally around the sun (cool!). Hermine finally showed us what she had starting on Sunday night. Not much of anything,some winds, bigger waves, but not very big. Kind of disappointed, but we still have our lives and property, grateful for that! (I live in Southeastern RI 4 miles from the ocean.) We were spared from Sandy, but the next “village” over, Misquamicutt got hit hard…..and they’re building again,same spots. I don’t get it!

  5. Loved the East Coast but now am back in Missouri for good. Different kind of ‘animal’ here.

  6. Every storm has a personality, and Hermine was no exception. I think she took after her name: Her mean.

  7. Looking back can you say which computer model ended up being the most accurate. I think this would be interesting to see. Obviously the accurate would be in phases of the storm.

  8. As a Tallahassean there was much to learn in Hermine. I took the warnings seriously and thought I was prepared. But 3 days without power in the heat was miserable. Needed (and now have) battery operated fans to at least keep air moving. The night of the storm didn’t sound bad at all — never heard any thunder. From my window looked like limited damage — but when I went for coffee the next morning there was massive damage. Another lesson — damage is variable by neighborhood. As our apartment complex had just done tree duty — we were very lucky! Finally I learned it is good to have chargers for electronics in the car and that is great to have and use community cooling stations. Just wish we had some for pets — one of my elderly cats was quite sick by the last powerless night.

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