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NOAA: Lesser Chance Of Hurricanes For 2015


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is walking back its prediction in May of a 70% percent chance of a below-normal hurricane season for 2015.

The new outlook issued last week is a 90% chance of a below-normal year: the highest confidence level issued by NOAA since it began issuing seasonal hurricane predictions in 1998.

Lead Forecaster Gerry Bell points to a robust El Nino in the Pacific.

“Over the Atlantic, which is just a small part of the El Nino response, what El Nino does is produces stronger winds in the upper atmosphere,” said Bell. “And that acts to increase the wind shear. Hurricanes simply cannot form if the wind shear is too strong.”

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. Three tropical storms already have struck the U.S. this year. Ana made landfall in South Carolina in May, and Bill made landfall in Texas in June. Storms originating in the Midwest reached the Atlantic, became Tropical Storm Claudette, and went into eastern Canada last month.

As it stands now, the 90% percent chance involves 6-10 named storms, of which 1-4 will become hurricanes and maybe one will grow to Category-3 or stronger. Bell says peak season brings a change in the paradigm.

“During August through October, nearly all of the storms form from cloud systems and low pressure systems that move westward from Africa,” Bell said. “Those are the storms that produce the bulk of the hurricanes and major hurricanes. And it’s those storms that are going to be suppressed this hurricane season.”

Another factor is the sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, which are predicted to remain much cooler than the rest of the global tropics.

“We don’t pay a whole bunch of attention to the long-range forecast because all it takes is one storm to hit you, and it’s a very bad year,” said John Dosh, Escambia County’s Emergency Management Director.

“A prime example is 1992,” said Dosh. “The first storm of the year didn’t occur until August, and that was Hurricane Andrew.”

It’s been eleven years since Hurricane Ivan and a decade since Hurricane Dennis. Dosh and his colleagues have a pair of concerns: residents who have become complacent, and those who have moved to the coast since those storms. 

Dosh and other emergency officials urge residents to have a disaster plan, which includes supplies to get by for at least 72 hours after a storm. And make sure you have your paperwork.

“Water – one gallon per person per day for consumption – [and] non-perishable food items,” Dosh said. “You want to make sure you’ve got paperwork. Maybe copies of birth certificates [and] insurance paperwork. Have copies in your disaster supply kit.”

An emergency notification system, Alert Escambia, is up and running. Residents who sign up can receive notifications via text message, email or telephone. To subscribe, go to www.myescambia.com/be-ready.