As the peak season for Atlantic hurricanes rolls in, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday indicated higher likelihood for above-normal activity and increased the number of expected named storms and major hurricanes.
Forecasters now predict two to five major hurricanes this season characterized as Category 3 or above. They are calling for a total of 14 to 19 named storms, five to nine of them becoming hurricanes. Those numbers include six named storms already this year.
On Wednesday, Franklin became the first Atlantic hurricane of the season as it moved toward Mexico’s Gulf Coast.
NOAA’S new figures reflect an increase from the May outlook for two to four major hurricanes and 11 to 17 named storms, with the number of hurricanes overall remaining the same.
In its updated outlook, NOAA said the season had “the potential to be extremely active,” possibly vying with 2010, which saw 19 named storms, 12 of them hurricanes and five of them major.
“Wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season,” according to Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. That’s as chances have dropped significantly for the formation of El Niño, a weather pattern that makes it difficult for storms to develop.
Peak season for activity has historically been from mid-August through October, NOAA said.
The six named storms this year represent twice the number of named storms that ordinarily would form by early August, Bell said during a media call.
While the climate center’s seasonal hurricane forecasters make long-range calls on expected activity, they do not predict if or where storms might make landfall, Bell said, as that’s dependent on shorter-term weather conditions.
The traditional Atlantic season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with this year’s Tropical Storm Arlene jumping the gun and forming in April.
A dozen named storms — with six becoming hurricanes and three of those major — is considered an average season, NOAA said.
Also active was the 2012 season, which saw 19 named storms, with 10 becoming hurricanes.
That included Sandy, which reached category 3 hurricane level, morphed into a post-tropical storm of “tremendous size,” which “drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines,” as described in a National Hurricane Center report.
Since Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, Long Beach, one of the areas severely impacted, has been rebuilding and investing tens of millions of dollars in upgrading infrastructure, said Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman.
“We’re certainly more prepared now than we were before,” he said, but until all projects are completed, “we remain more vulnerable than we would like to be.”
Should this season see a tropical storm heading this way, he said, “we’ll prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”