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  • Writer's pictureBryan Norcross

Hurricane Season begins with a quiet Atlantic

All's quiet on the eastern and southern front. Hostile upper-level winds are ripping across the Gulf of Mexico, most of the Caribbean, and much of the tropical Atlantic. In addition, Saharan dust has spread from Africa to the Caribbean islands. Nothing is going to develop in the next week.

 


Long-range computer forecast models that try to predict whether something might develop around the middle of the month are coming up mostly blank. The weather pattern is forecast to become somewhat more conducive to something spinning up in mid-June, but as of now, there is no definitive forecast of a system developing.


 

The ocean water in the tropical Atlantic is still record warm, which is worrisome. The heat from the ocean is the energy source for hurricanes.



The tropical Pacific is steadily moving toward a La Niña state, which normally supports an atmospheric pattern over the Atlantic that is more conducive for storm development.

 

Beyond those two macro factors, which have relatively high predictability, there are smaller scale, shorter duration, and essentially random atmospheric features that can affect whether a system intensifies or not. These are responsible for about 25% of the predictability of the season, which is not nothing. This is why NOAA and many other agencies forecast a range of possible outcomes.

 


Human nature causes us to focus on the biggest number, but if we look at the forecast with the unforecastable factors in mind, we see that the lower numbers are barely above average, while the larger ones indicate hyperactivity.

 

The bottom line is that the season will likely be busier than average. Whether it surges into record territory is an open question. But it certainly could. At the very least, ultra-warm water should provide the energy for systems to get stronger than they normally would.

 

There's only one thing to do about it, and that's to mentally and physically prepare. For the most part, physical preparation is easy. In Florida, there's a sales tax holiday in effect until June 14, when you can buy batteries, emergency lights, carbon monoxide detectors, and even generators that cost less than $3,000. It just makes sense to get what you need now.

 

Mental preparation is a little harder. If you don't do anything else, try to work out the answer to these questions:

 

1. Where will you and your family ride out the storm? A safe house that's not in an evacuation zone is the best answer. If you're in a high-rise, talk to the management. Many buildings shut off the elevators, A/C, and water. This is a critical decision with many factors involved for a lot of people. I'll have more about this in future posts.

 

2. How are you going to protect your property, including your car(s)? Windows and doors need protection unless they are Miami-Dade-County approved to stand alone. Parking garages are best for cars, if possible.

 

3. Where will you get water to drink after the storm? You don't need bottles of water from the store. Buy inflatable containers and fill them with tap water. Do it before the storm and save a lot of aggravation and schlepping.

 

4. How will you communicate with family and friends if the mobile phones are out after the storm? Choose a responsible contact person out of town whom all your friends and relatives can check in with by text.

 

5. Do you have any special medical needs or conditions to consider? Pharmacies might not be open for an extended period after the storm. Electricity-dependent people are a special concern.

There are many more things to take care of if a hurricane is approaching, of course. But those key questions will get you started.

 

Remember that not all hurricanes will give us a lot of warning. The strongest storms at landfall are often late developers, so you must be ready to jump into action without much notice. The four Category 5 hurricanes in the record book were below hurricane strength 3 days before landfall. Crazy.

 

Living along the coast means living with hurricanes. Period. There is nothing to do but to make preparation part of life.

 

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