It appears the Atlantic hurricane season may be less active than previously thought. But those living along the coast should not let down their guard.
NOAA — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — is out with its updated outlook of nine to 13 named storms, including four to seven hurricanes. Up to two hurricanes could be "major" with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. Gerry Bell with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says the reduction was made for three basic reasons.
“The first is that there’s a much higher likelihood that El Nino will develop in time to suppress the later part of the hurricane season,” said Bell. “Second reason is that temperatures in the tropical Atlantic have stayed much colder than average all summer. And third, just the wind and
The original prediction was for 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine of them becoming hurricanes and of those, one to four major hurricanes – Category-3 or higher.
“We’re talking about conditions across the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean over to Africa; that’s the main hurricane formation region,” Bell said. “And if conditions are just unfavorable for hurricane activity in that big region, then you have a less active season. And that’s what we expect this year.”
Four named storms already have developed this year, including two Atlantic hurricanes in July – Beryl and Chris. But Bell says their early appearances don’t necessarily mean the activity will ramp up later on.
“Sometimes the early season activity is an indicator, especially if you get a lot of activity down in the main development region,” said Bell. We’re not seeing that this year, so the activity to date is not an indicator of the rest of the season.”
While NOAA is expecting less activity than was predicted in May, Bell reminds everyone that we’re now in the peak of the hurricane season through October.
“Nobody’s saying there won’t be more storms; in fact, there will be more storms and more hurricanes,” Bell said. “Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast residents, everybody needs to stay prepared. We all know, it just takes one storm to strike to make for a very bad year in your area.”
“Just because we haven’t seen a whole bunch of activity so far this year doesn’t mean it can’t occur,” said John Dosh, Escambia County’s Emergency Director. “Pay attention to what’s going on, and everybody should have their plans and their disaster kits in place and ready to go.”
Dosh adds certain items should make up the kit, to be useful not only after a hurricane but any disaster.
“Non-perishable food items; bottled water, one gallon per day per person,” Dosh says. “Certainly any important paperwork about you, yourself and your family, your property, insurance paperwork. Important stuff that may be required if you’re going to make an insurance claim.”
Be sure to have at least three days of supplies on hand, to hedge against a loss of services in a storm’s aftermath. The mantra now – as it has always been – is “The first 72 [hours] are on you.”
“The better prepared they are, the easier this will be,” says Dosh. “It’s just going through that process, and certainly there’s all kinds of materials out there on the Web, either through our website for FEMA’s website that will help you build a disaster kit. It’s about having a plan and being prepared.”
One concern of local emergency management is the number of people who have moved to the Gulf Coast since the last hurricane to hit the region – Dennis in 2005. Dosh says the challenge is getting them up to speed.
“We can educate them on what the impacts are, and what they can expect,” said Dosh.
As forecasters emphasize every hurricane season, it's not the number of storms that form, but rather where they track. Exhibit-A, says NOAA’s Gerry Bell, is the 1992 season.
“There was a two-week period when conditions were conducive, and that’s when [Hurricane] Andrew formed and devastated south Florida,’ Bell said. “I just reiterate that hurricane preparedness is so key, even when we’re predicting less activity that doesn’t mean no activity.”
Bell also warns coastal residents that the forecast doesn't predict where any storms could make landfall – that’s determined by short-term weather patterns.