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Hurricane Maria losing its characteristic structure after making landfall in Puerto Rico Maria FT 20170920 0715 UTC.gif
Hurricane Maria losing its characteristic structure after making landfall in Puerto Rico

Landfall is the event of a storm moving over land after being over water. More broadly, and in relation to human travel, it refers to 'the first land that is reached or seen at the end of a journey across the sea or through the air, or the fact of arriving there. [1]


Tropical cyclone

Hurricane Laura making landfall in Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 storm. Laura 2020-08-26 1800Z Landfall to 2020-08-28 0200Z.gif
Hurricane Laura making landfall in Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 storm.

A tropical cyclone is classified as making landfall when the center of the storm moves across the coast; in a relatively strong tropical cyclone, this is when the eye moves over land. [2] This is where most of the damage occurs within a mature tropical cyclone, such as a typhoon or hurricane, as most of the damaging aspects of these systems are concentrated near the eyewall. Such effects include the peaking of the storm surge, the core of strong winds coming ashore, and heavy flooding rains. These coupled with high surf can cause major beach erosion. When a tropical cyclone makes landfall, the eye usually closes in upon itself due to negative environmental factors over land, such as friction with the terrain, which causes surf to decrease, and drier continental air. Maximum sustained winds will naturally decrease as the cyclone moves inland due to frictional differences between water and land with the free atmosphere. [3]

Landfall is distinct from a direct hit. A direct hit is where the core of high winds (or eyewall) comes onshore but the center of the storm may stay offshore. The effects of this may be quite similar to landfall, as this term is used when the radius of maximum wind within a tropical cyclone moves ashore. [4] These effects are high surf, heavy rains that may cause flooding, minor storm surge, coastal erosion, high winds, and possibly severe thunderstorms with tornadoes around the periphery.

Storms, e.g., tropical cyclones, can be quite large. Potentially, dangerous winds, rain, and flooding may impact an area near the center of the storm, though technically landfall may not have occurred. Accordingly, it may be helpful to gauge the anticipated impact of such storms, to be aware of their general location and landmasses adjacent to the major thrust of the storm.

Tornado or waterspout

When a tornadic waterspout makes landfall it is reclassified as a tornado, [5] which can subsequently cause damage to areas inland. When a fair weather waterspout makes landfall it usually dissipates quickly due to friction and a reduction in the amount of warm air supplied to the funnel. [6]

See also

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hurricane Jeanne</span> Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 2004

Hurricane Jeanne was a Category 3 hurricane that struck the Caribbean and the Eastern United States in September 2004. It was the deadliest hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Mitch in 1998. It was the tenth named storm, the seventh hurricane, and the fifth major hurricane of the season, as well as the third hurricane and fourth named storm of the season to make landfall in Florida. After wreaking havoc on Hispaniola, Jeanne struggled to reorganize, eventually strengthening and performing a complete loop over the open Atlantic. It headed westwards, strengthening into a Category 3 hurricane and passing over the islands of Great Abaco and Grand Bahama in the Bahamas on September 25. Jeanne made landfall later in the day in Florida just two miles from where Hurricane Frances had struck a mere three weeks earlier.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tropical Storm Tammy</span> Atlantic tropical storm in 2005

Tropical Storm Tammy was a short-lived tropical storm during October in the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season which caused minor damage to the southeastern United States. More significant, however, were its remnants, which contributed to the Northeast U.S. flooding of October 2005.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hurricane Felix (1995)</span> Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1995

Hurricane Felix caused severe beach erosion along the East Coast of the United States in August 1995. The seventh tropical cyclone, sixth named storm, and third hurricane of the 1995 Atlantic hurricane season, Felix was also the strongest hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean since Category 5 Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It developed from a tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic Ocean on August 8, and slowly intensified, reaching hurricane status on August 11. Under favorable conditions, Felix began to rapidly deepen while curving northwestward. Late on August 12, Felix peaked as a low-end Category 4 hurricane. However, it soon weakened rapidly to a Category 1 hurricane. Less than three days later, Felix passed only 75 mi (120 km) southeast of Bermuda. Although it also posed a threat to the East Coast of the United States, Felix curved northward and then east-northeastward while remaining offshore, thereby avoiding landfall. Felix briefly threatened Bermuda again, but weakened to a tropical storm and turned back to the northeast on August 20. It accelerated east-northeastward, and passed a short distance offshore of Newfoundland, where Felix transitioned into an extratropical storm on August 22.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tropical Storm Josephine (1996)</span> Atlantic tropical storm in 1996

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tropical Storm Helene (2000)</span> Atlantic tropical storm in 2000

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Tropical Storm Fay was a strong and unusual tropical storm that moved erratically across the state of Florida and the Caribbean Sea. The sixth named storm of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, Fay formed from a vigorous tropical wave on August 15 over the Dominican Republic. It passed over the island of Hispaniola, into the Gulf of Gonâve, across the island of Cuba, and made landfall on the Florida Keys late in the afternoon of August 18 before veering into the Gulf of Mexico. It again made landfall near Naples, Florida, in the early hours of August 19 and progressed northeast through the Florida peninsula, emerging into the Atlantic Ocean near Melbourne on August 20. Extensive flooding took place in parts of Florida as a result of its slow movement. On August 21, it made landfall again near New Smyrna Beach, Florida, moving due west across the Panhandle, crossing Gainesville and Panama City, Florida. As it zigzagged from water to land, it became the first storm in recorded history to make landfall in Florida four times. Thirty-six deaths were blamed on Fay. The storm also resulted in one of the most prolific tropical cyclone related tornado outbreaks on record. A total of 81 tornadoes touched down across five states, three of which were rated as EF2. Damage from Fay was heavy, estimated at $560 million.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glossary of tropical cyclone terms</span>

The following is a glossary of tropical cyclone terms.

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  1. Definition of 'Landfall' in Cambridge Dictionary.
  2. National Hurricane Center (2009). Glossary of NHC Terms: Landfall. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  3. Sim Aberson and Chris Landsea (2008). Subject : C2) Doesn't the friction over land kill tropical cyclones? Archived 2009-05-06 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  4. National Hurricane Center (2009). Glossary of NHC Terms: Direct Hit. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  5. Glossary of Meteorology (2009). Waterspout. Archived 2011-06-06 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2009-02-05.
  6. Bruce B. Smith (2009). Waterspouts. Retrieved on 2009-02-05.