An already busy Atlantic basin hurricane season has the potential to become “extremely active,” forecasters say.
In a regularly scheduled update to its 2017 hurricane season outlook, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters are predicting a higher likelihood of an above-normal season, increasing the predicated number of named storms and major hurricanes.
NOAA forecasters now predict a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season (compared to the May prediction of 45 percent chance), with 14-19 named storms (increased from the May predicted range of 11-17) and two to five major hurricanes (increased from the May predicted range of two to four). The prediction of five to nine hurricanes remains unchanged.
“We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The 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. This is in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.”
Other factors that point to an above-normal season include warmer waters across the tropical Atlantic than models previously predicted and higher predicted activity from available models, according to Bell.
An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. Since the beginning of hurricane season on June 1, there have been six named storms, which is half the number of storms during an average six-month season and double the number of storms that would typically form by early August.
“Today’s updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”
Some Atlantic basin seasons feature below average activity but still result in a devastating storm, like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, while others like 2010 — third most active season on record — did not feature a hurricane making landfall.
The 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season will end on November 30. The upcoming names include Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katina, Lee, and Maria.
The season peaks in September, and 80 percent of named storms between 1981 and 2010 have formed between August and October.
FEMA offers the following easy, low-cost steps to get prepared now:
Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens.
Know your evacuation route.
Tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts.
Listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.