Hurricane season is upon us, and though the Eastern Pacific is off to an eventful start NOAA is predicting a below-normal season in the Atlantic.
The season, which officially runs from the beginning of June through the end of November, is reported to have somewhere between six and 12 storms strong enough to be "named storms," which are categorized by having wind speeds of 39 mph or higher. NOAA's 11 storm prediction includes the chance of stronger tropical storms of which three to six could develop into hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher).
Though the outlooks feels reassuring at first glance, NOAA warns that despite the lack of major storms that does not mean coastal areas are free and clear; as with natural disasters in only take one to make an extreme impact.
“As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew – a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida.
It should also be noted that NOAA 2015 prediction also illustrates a 10 percent chance of seeing and above-normal season, meaning both the number and severity of storms could far exceed the predicted range.
“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”
On the other side of the continent, the Eastern Pacific is already off to a fast start.
Hurricane Andres became the season's first major hurricane Sunday evening, reaching Category 4 strength with sustained winds peaking at 145 mph. Though technically the Pacific hurricane season opens May 15, a storm reaching major hurricane force in the month of May is a rarity, only happening five times since reliable records began in 1970.
Already weakening, Andres is expected to completely tucker out and become a remnant storm by late Thursday according to The Weather Channel. Fast on Andres's heels is Blanca, which reached hurricane force early today and is expected to build. Neither is expected to make landfall.
Despite missing land, high winds, treacherous seas and storm surges still pose a potential risk to boaters and coastal inhabitants. Officials stress that preparedness remains the best line of defense in the face of an incoming storm.
“Everyone should take action now to prepare themselves and their families for hurricanes and powerful storms. Develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and take time to learn evacuation routes for your area," said FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich. "Knowing what to do ahead of time can literally save your life and help you bounce back stronger and faster should disaster strike in your area."
NOAA will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season. To stay up to date on storms in your area visit the National Hurricane Center's website at www.nhc.noaa.gov.