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 2018, another storm called Alberto formed in late May. 2019 seems to be no different with Andrea also forming in May.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
Hurricane predictions for 2019
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University normally make their first predictions in April/May time but for the 2019 hurricane season they published a very early forecast.
They anticipated a lower probability of major storm activity unlike the previous three years. This is due to their prediction of the reduced likelihood of El Niño developing and they have put forward five different scenarios with percentage probabilities. Of the five scenarios, the one with the highest percentage forecasts eight to eleven named storms, three to five hurricanes of which one to two could be major hurricanes.
Their first quantitive forecast was on April 4 with thirteen named storms, five hurricanes with two becoming major hurricanes. They are forecasting a slightly below average season with a 48% chance of a hurricane making landfall on the entire United States coastline with a 28% chance of landfall on the southeast coast and the Gulf coast including Florida.
They revised their forecast up by one named storm and one extra hurricane in their June 4 forecast. This was confirmed again in their July 9 forecast. The chances of a major hurricane making landfall on the entire coastline has increased from 48% to 54% with 32% chance on the US east coast including Florida and 31% on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westwards.
Further forecasts are expected on August 6.
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 a 70% chance of a near normal season with an estimated nine to fifteen named storms, four to eight hurricanes of which two to four could be major hurricanes.
This again puts their worst case scenario slightly ahead of Colorado State University.
NOAA made their revised forecast in early August and they have increased their figures slightly to predict a 70% chance of there being 10 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes of which two to four could be major hurricanes.
This could now make 2019 a fairly busy season.
AccuWeather.com announced their forecast in April and this year is predicting twelve to fourteen named storms with five to seven hurricanes of which two to four could become major hurricanes. They also predict two to four named storms could make landfall in the USA.
Tropical Storm Risk is predicting a slightly below average season with twelve named storms and five hurricanes of which two could become major.
Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting ten to fourteen named storms including four to seven hurricanes of which two to three could be major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have often 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 anybody predicted.
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 2019
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.
For the fifth year in a row, the first named storm of the season has occurred before the official start of the season on June 1st.
Subtropical Storm Andrea formed south of Bermuda on May 20 but by the following day it had weakened to a subtropical depression and broke up.
On July 10, a storm system developed in the Northern Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles south-southwest of Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle and it was upgraded to Tropical Storm Barry on Thursday, July 11.
It started tracking west-southwest away from Florida at about 8 mph with wind speeds of 30 mph. By Friday it had started to turn onto a west-northwesterly track and wind speeds had increased to 50 mph. It was expected to strengthen further with wind speeds of over 85 mph as it approached the Louisiana coastline. It briefly became a category 1 hurricane before weakening back to a Tropical Storm.
Rainfall between 6 and 12 inches was originally predicted along with a life-threatening storm surge and a Hurricane Warning was placed on coastal parts of Louisiana from Intracoastal City to Grand Isle.
Barry made landfall on Saturday near Intracoastal City and forecasters are now estimating as much as 25 inches of rain in places. The Mississippi River is already 9 feet above normal levels for the time of year and a careful watch is being made on the levees around New Orleans.
Double red flag conditions were posted from Panama City Beach in Florida all the way to Gulf Shore in Alabama due to life threatening high surf and rip currents.
By Sunday Tropical Storm Barry had weakened further with wind speeds of 45 mph as it tracks north-northwest inland.
After over one month without any named storms, Tropical Storm Chantal formed late on August 20 in the North Atlantic Ocean.
It started tracking eastwards with wind speeds of around 40 mph but by August 22 it was downgraded to a Tropical Depression. It is expected to further weaken over the next couple of days and is not a threat to land.