published by Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
The USA will have an “above normal” hurricane season this year, with anywhere from 12-18 named storms to form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, federal forecasters predicted Thursday.
Of those named storms, six to 10 should become hurricanes, including three to six “major” hurricanes, with wind speeds above 111 mph.
Tropical storms are given a name when wind speeds reach 39 mph. They are upgraded to hurricane status when their sustained winds reach 74 mph. An average Atlantic hurricane season sees 11 named storms, including six hurricanes; two become major hurricanes.
Forecasters do not predict the number of storms that will make landfall.
Climate factors in this outlook include unusually warm Atlantic Ocean water and temperatures two degrees above average, reports Gerry Bell, lead seasonal forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center
. Additionally, the impacts of the La Nina climate pattern, such as reduced wind shear, are expected to continue into the hurricane season.
“In addition to multiple climate factors, seasonal climate models also indicate an above-normal season is likely, and even suggest we could see activity comparable to some of the active seasons since 1995,” Bell said.
Since 1995, Bell said, the Atlantic has been in an era of increased hurricane activity. There are consistently favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions for storm formation.
forecast is similar to earlier predictions by researchers at Colorado State University
and the AccuWeather commercial weather service. The Colorado State team, led by William Gray
and Phil Klotzbach, forecasts that 16 named storms will form in the Atlantic basin; it says there is a 72% chance of a major hurricane striking land.
AccuWeather predicts that 15 named storms will form, of which eight should be hurricanes.
The season officially runs June 1 through Nov. 30. However, most hurricanes tend to form from August through October, according to National Hurricane Center
The first storm of this year in the Atlantic, Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico will be Arlene, followed by Bret, Cindy, Don and Emily.
Forecasters also released their prediction for the Eastern Pacific
basin, where nine to 15 named storms are expected, which would be a below-normal season. An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 to 16 named storms.
Eastern Pacific storms and hurricanes primarily stay out to sea and seldom affect the USA, although some storms do hit the west coast of Mexico.
NOAA forecasts for named tropical storms and hurricanes have been accurate in six out of the past 11 years, according to a USA TODAY analysis. NOAA’s prediction was too low in four years and too high in just one year: 2006. Nine of the 11 years saw above-average activity for tropical storms and hurricanes.
The forecast was announced Thursday morning by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center at a press conference at the NOAA Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Md.
With no major U.S. hurricane landfalls since the catastrophic 2005 season (Hurricane Ike
hit Texas as a strong Category 2 storm in 2008), officials worry about complacency.
In a 2010 poll of coastal residents taken by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research, almost half the respondents had no hurricane survival kit and 74% had taken no steps to make their homes structurally stronger since the last hurricane season.
2010 was one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, with 19 named storms, of which 12 were hurricanes. However, no hurricanes made landfall in the USA.
“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco
at the Thursday press conference. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”
Posted by: Craig Fugate, FEMA Administrator and Ali S. Khan, Assistant Surgeon General and Director, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC
With June 1 only days away, FEMA, CDC and the rest of the team are busy preparing for the upcoming hurricane season. And now that you’ve taken the necessary precautions to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, you can start preparing for hurricane season, too. In recognition of Hurricane Preparedness Week, we want to remind you of some simple steps you can take. The same steps that we described in our zombie post (get a kit, make a plan, be informed) are key to getting prepared for a hurricane as well.
Get a Kit and Stock Up
Some useful items for your family emergency kit.
After a hurricane strikes, you may not have the convenience of your local supermarket or other supply stores that you visit on a regular basis. Therefore, it’s critical that you have the supplies you need to survive for at least 72 hours, like non-perishable food, water, prescription medications, batteries, baby supplies, phone chargers and inverters, and a first-aid kit. While you are gathering supplies, make sure that you also place an emergency kit in your car. Learn more about supplies you’ll need on CDC.gov or Ready.gov.
Make a Plan With Your Family
It’s important to identify ahead of time where you and your family will go if you have to evacuate. If local officials order a mandatory evacuation in your area, you should follow this request and make plans for you and your family to leave. Sit down with your family now and decide whether you will evacuate to an out-of-town friend or relatives’ house, or if you will stay at a hotel in a safe place.
Be sure to know your evacuation route ahead of time.
And when making your evacuation plan, don’t forget about your precious pets! You should make alternate housing arrangements for your pets in advance, since pet-friendly shelters may not be available during the emergency period. Identifying pet boarding facilities that are located along your evacuation route and outside of the danger zone are important steps to ensuring your pets will have a safe place to go. When evacuation orders are issued, you should call the boarder to ensure that they have availability. Here’s a useful checklist for your pets on Ready.gov, FEMA’s website for emergency preparedness.
Now that you have a plan for your family (including four-legged members), consider the following precautions before you evacuate:
- Fill your car’s gas tank. If no vehicle is available, make arrangements with friends or family for transportation.
- Prepare an emergency kit for your car with food, water, flares, booster cables, maps, tools, a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, sleeping bags, etc.
- Secure any items outside which may damage property in a storm, such as bicycles, grills, propane tanks, etc.
- Cover windows and doors with plywood or boards or place large strips of masking tape or adhesive tape on the windows to reduce the risk of breakage and flying glass.
- Adjust the thermostat on refrigerators and freezers to the coolest possible temperature.
- Be sure to take your phone charger with you.
Tune In And Stay Informed
While the path of a hurricane is forecasted before it hits land, the situation can often change from one minute to the next. It’s important to be informed with a NOAA weather radio and educate yourself on hurricane-related terms that will be used throughout the season, such as:
- Tropical storm watch – tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified coastal area within 48 hours.
- Tropical storm warning – tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area within 36 hours.
- Hurricane watch – hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified coastal area. This is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
- Hurricane warning – hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified coastal area. This is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
The National Hurricane Center provides a glossary on its Web site, so take some time and familiarize yourself with their Glossary of National Hurricane Center Terms.
While Hurricane Preparedness is a top priority and responsibility for FEMA and CDC, as well as other emergency management and public health agencies, it’s also each individual’s responsibility to ensure that they take the necessary steps to be prepared. You can learn more about Hurricane Preparedness at emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/ and www.Ready.gov/hurricanes.