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High number of named storms expected for Long Island, rest of Eastern Seaboard

A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Arthur off

A satellite image shows Tropical Storm Arthur off the coast of North Carolina on Monday. Credit: NOAA

Once again, Long Island, along with the rest of the Eastern Seaboard, can anticipate an unusually high number of named storms, from 13 to 19, federal scientists said Thursday.

That means the storms’ winds will reach at least 39 mph. Six to ten of them could grow into at least Category 3 hurricanes, which means their winds will hit a minimum of 111 mph.

The probability this forecast will be borne out is 60%, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

There is a 30% probability of an average hurricane season with 12 named storms, half of which become hurricanes.

Blame the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a 20- to 40-year pattern of warming or cooling sea-surface temperatures in the North Atlantic that affects whether other phenomena — El Niño or La Niña — arise. 

La Niña, when westerly winds are weak, and thus do not curb storms, is tied to an increase in North Atlantic hurricanes, while El Niño, its opposite, tends to produce fewer. 

Since 1995, the NOAA scientists told reporters on a conference call, the North Atlantic has been in a high activity cycle of storms.

The rising seas coupled with extensive building on the East Coast have vastly raised the numbers of people who may lie in the storms’ paths, said Gerry Bell, a NOAA meteorologist.

“This could be the fifth above normal season in a row," he said. The 2005 season holds the record with just under 30 storms.

Fortunately, Tropical Storm Arthur, which hit Florida and the Outer Banks last weekend, counts as one of the named storms, the experts said.

The August to October stretch is the most active part of the hurricane season though Arthur’s arrival suggests preseason storms might be becoming more common, and the NOAA scientists said they may advance the start of hurricane season to May.

Federal Emergency Management Agency acting deputy administrator for resilience, Carlos Castillo, said the agency was prepared to handle any storms — even if they strike during the pandemic — and urged everyone living in an evacuation zone to have a plan and be sure they are ready.

Preferably, anyone fleeing a storm should try to stay with family or friends who live outside its path.

“Evacuation shelters are meant to keep you safe, not necessarily comfortable,“ he said. The shelters will follow social distancing and other anti-virus strategies, he said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross touted the new computers and satellites NOAA will benefit from this season.

Commercial flights are providing much less data during the pandemic — because  fewer of these aircraft are flying — but package deliverers continue to provide this information, the scientists said.

Asked what advice he had for individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and thus might not be able to stockpile food, the FEMA official said: “Public shelters will be available prestorm and post-storm.”


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