After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
Though the official hurricane season runs from June to November, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in April/May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January.
In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May. In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May. In 2017, Arlene formed in April and in this year, another storm called Alberto formed in late May.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University made their first predictions for the 2018 hurricane season in April. They forecast a slightly above average season with up to 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes of which three could become a major hurricane (Category 3 or greater with sustained winds of 111 mph or more).
This is again due to the reduced likelihood of a significant Pacific weather system known as El Niño, coupled with cooler Atlantic water temperatures.
Colorado issued a revised forecast at the beginning of July and lowered their forecast numbers to 14 named storms, four hurricanes and only one major hurricanes.
They predicted that there is a 63% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the entire United States coastline during 2018 (average is 52%) with a 39% chance (average is 31%) for the eastern Florida peninsula and a 38% chance (average is 30%) for the Gulf Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions towards the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August. This year in May they predicted an average/slightly above average season with a 70% chance of an estimated 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes of which between one and four could be major hurricanes. This forecast is similar to their initial 2017 predictions.
This again puts their worst case scenario slightly ahead of Colorado State University.
AccuWeather.com normally produce their forecast around the middle of May and this year is predicting 12 to 15 named storms with six to eight hurricanes of which three to five could become major hurricanes. Tropical Storm Risk is predicting 12 named storms and six hurricanes of which two could become major. Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting 10 to 15 named storms including five to eight hurricanes of which two to four could be major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently. 2017 ended up being far worse than anybodies predictions.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2018
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen for all named storms. Names are often re-used but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2018 are as follows:
Like 2017, the first storm of 2018, Subtropical Storm Alberto formed before the official start of the hurricane season on Friday, May 25, about 50 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula. It started moving north-northeast at 6 mph with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph.
Following recent heavy rain around the Gulf, flash floods and heavy rain are expected in parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana over Memorial Day weekend.
On Sunday, May 27, Florida, Mississippi and Alabama all declared a state of emergency. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the entire Gulf Coast of Florida as Alberto tracks north with wind speeds of up to 50 mph.
Alberto made landfall on Florida’s Panhandle on Monday afternoon near Laguna Beach with up to a 4 foot storm surge and up to 8 inches of rain predicted across a 150 mile wide front.
It quickly passed into Alabama as the wind speeds decreased to 30 mph, becoming a Subtropical Depression.
Tropical Storm Beryl formed on July 5 in the South Caribbean Sea between Cabo Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles. It was expected to weaken as it moved northwesterly towards the Lesser Antilles, southeast of Puerto Rico.
Instead it strengthened to a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph, the first of the 2018 season. It started moving westwards at 14 mph but by July 7 it had weakened back to a Tropical Storm.
It passed over Dominica with wind speeds of 40 mph and has further dissipated bringing heavy rain to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
It is not expected to strengthen and will most likely veer north away from the Florida Atlantic coast.
On July 9, Tropical Storm Chris formed off the Carolinas coastline, southeast of the North Carolina Outer Banks. By the next day it had strengthened to hurricane status with wind speeds of 85 mph.
It was moving in a northeasterly parallel to the coastline and by Wednesday had strengthened to a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 105 mph. Winds are expected to reach 135 mph before it starts to weaken.
Debby formed as a Subtropical Storm in the North Atlantic west of the Azores on August 7. It started heading northwards away from the US coastline at 16 mph with maximum wind speeds of 40 mph.
By the following day it had strengthened to a Tropical Storm and is expected to strengthen further before weakening over the next couple of days as it veers more easterly.
Like Debby before it, Ernesto also formed as a Subtropical Storm in the North Atlantic, on August 15. It is tracking north northeast at 10 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph. It is expected to strengthened into a Tropical Storm with speeds of 60 mph.
It is well clear of the Eastern US seaboard and is forecast to hit the United Kingdom around August 19.