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 was expected to further weaken over the next couple of days and was not a threat to land.
Tropical Storm Dorian formed on Saturday, August 24, east of the Lesser Antilles in the Atlantic Ocean.
It started tracking westwards at around 10 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph and was expected to reach the Lesser Antilles around Monday/Tuesday.
Dorian was originally forecast to strengthen to a category 1 hurricane as it headed towards Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, before weakening back to a tropical storm.
Hurricane watches were issued for Vieques, Culebra, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
By Wednesday it had passed through the Leeward Islands and was fast approaching Puerto Rico with wind speeds of 70 mph whilst tracking northwestwards. As it passed to the east of Puerto Rico it strengthened into a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 100 mph.
Whilst earlier forecasts had expected it to weaken it was then forecast to strengthen considerably and by Friday morning it was a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 105 mph. During the day it strengthened further becoming a category 4 hurricane, the first major hurricane of the 2019 season.
By Sunday, September 1 it had become a category 5 hurricane with wind speeds of 160 mph as it tracked westwards towards Treasure Cay and Grand Bahama.
It had been expected that it would weaken slightly back to a category 4 but instead it strengthened even further with wind speeds of up to 185 mph and gusts up to 220 mph.
This made Dorian one of the strongest landfall hurricanes on record, tying with the disastrous 1935 Labor Day hurricane which obliterated parts of the Florida Keys with a large loss of life. Only one hurricane, Hurricane Allen in 1980 has had higher sustained wind speeds at 190 mph.
After coming onshore at the Abaco Islands in the northern Bahamas it slowed down which meant it took a lot longer to clear the Bahamas. Storm surges of up to 23 feet were forecast causing large scale flooding coupled with up to 24 inches of rain.
By this stage it was no longer expected to come ashore in Florida but likely to start heading northwards parallel to the Florida coastline on Tuesday morning and possibly make landfall in the Carolinas on Thursday. Storm surges were anticipated along with 5 to 10 inches of rain in some areas.
By Monday lunchtime it had weakened slightly, back to a category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 155 mph.
As well as a hurricane watch for the northwestern Bahamas, a state of emergency was declared for all of Florida, both North and South Carolina and parts of Georgia.
A lot of Florida’s Atlantic seaboard was under hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings with tropical storm watches for some central counties around Orlando.
Evacuation orders were issued for parts of Palm Beach and Martin County and the entire coastline of South Carolina and Georgia.
Hurricane Dorian effectively stalled over Grand Bahama but on Tuesday it weakened to a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 110 mph as it tracked northwest at up to 5 mph. Over 40 deaths have been reported so far but this figure is expected to rise significantly as over 5,000 people are still reported missing.
By Wednesday, September 4 it was around 90 miles offshore from Daytona Beach and tracking north northwest with wind speeds of 105 mph. On Thursday it is expected to start veering onto a more easterly heading as it clears the Florida coastline.
On Thursday it started to veer onto a more northerly heading as it strengthened again back to a category 3 major hurricane.
On Friday it clipped the Outer Banks near Avon as a category 1 hurricane as it headed out into open water only to come ashore again near Halifax in Nova Scotia as a Post Tropical Cyclone (effectively a category 2 hurricane) with gusts of 120 mph leaving over half a million people without power.
Tropical Storm Erin formed about 450 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday, August 28 tracking north northwest with wind speeds of 50 mph. It quickly weakened back to a Tropical Depression.
Whilst Tropical Depression Erin was not expected to make landfall in the southern States, it continued tracking towards Halifax, Nova Scotia as it weakened into a tropical rainstorm.
It caused strong rip currents and some flooding in low lying coastal areas with up to 6 inches of rain in places as it tracked up the Eastern Seaboard.
Tropical Storm Fernand formed off the Mexican coastline in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, September 3 tracking westward with wind speeds of 40 mph.
It briefly veered northwards before turning back onto a westerly track and made landfall north of El Esmeril on Wednesday. It then quickly started to weaken into a Tropical Depression.
Tropical Storm Gabrielle formed around 700 miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands in the Eastern Atlantic on Wednesday, September 4.
It started tracking northwest with wind speeds of 40 mph and over the next couple of days it increased wind speeds to 70 mph.
By Monday it is expected to start veering towards the northeast and the United Kingdom.
As of Friday, September 13, a potential tropical storm developed east of the Bahamas and it was forecast to follow a similar track to Hurricane Dorian and become Tropical Storm Humberto as it passed over the Abaco Islands on Saturday with wind speed gusts of 50 mph.
On Saturday it did become Tropical Storm Humberto but it tracked east of the Abaco Islands that were devastated by Hurricane Dorian less than two weeks ago. Wind speeds gradually increased up to 85 mph bringing rain and heavy seas to Florida’s east coast. However when it was about 230 miles from Jacksonville it veered sharply onto a north easterly heading away from Florida.
By Monday, September 16 it was continuing to track north easterly with wind speeds of 105 mph as a category 1 hurricane. There was a chance it would further strengthen and could even reach category 3 status as it headed towards the island of Bermuda.
On Wednesday it did become a major category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 115 mph. A Hurricane watch was issued for Bermuda as the hurricane passed to the north of the island before quickly weakening.
On Tuesday, September 17, Tropical Storm Imelda formed in the Gulf of Mexico close to the Texas coastline and quickly made landfall near Freeport bringing heavy rain and the risk of flooding to low lying coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana.
Even after weakening to a Tropical Depression, Imelda generated torrential rainfall of up to 18 inches causing widespread flooding including Houston and Galveston with at least 5 deaths.
On Wednesday, September 18, Tropical Storm Jerry formed in the eastern Atlantic and started tracking west northwest with wind speeds of 45 mph. It strengthened and became a category 1 hurricane on Thursday as it tracked north of Puerto Rico.
It briefly further strengthened on Friday to a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 125 mph before weakening back to a category 1 hurricane. It further weakened back to a Tropical Storm as it started to veer onto a more northerly track following the path of Humberto.
Whilst it may strengthen again it is not forecast to become a hurricane again over the next couple of days as it heads north of Bermuda.
By Tuesday, September 24 wind speeds were 60 mph and it started to veer onto a north easterly course tracking close to Bermuda as wind speeds decreased.
The following day is further weakened into a Post Tropical Depression.
Tropical Storm Karen formed on Sunday, September 22 just east of the Windward Islands and is tracking west northwest with wind speeds of 40 mph. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the Windward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.
Over the next couple of days it was expected to strength as it moved onto a more northerly track towards Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
It passed over the eastern end of Puerto Rico on Tuesday, September 24 with wind speeds of 40 mph. It has now been downgraded to a Tropical Depression as it tracks east northeast with wind speeds of 35 mph.
It made a 180 turn towards Florida but it continued to weaken.
Tropical Storm Lorenzo is the twelfth storm of the 2019 season and it formed off the coast of Guinea Bissau in West Africa on Monday, September 23. It is currently tracking west northwestwards with wind speeds of 65 mph and it became a hurricane on Wednesday.
By Thursday it further strengthened into a category 3 major hurricane as it started to take a more northerly track. Within a matter of hours it then became a category 4 hurricane and briefly reached category 5 status.
By the following Wednesday, October 2 it had weakened to a Post Tropical Cyclone but still has dangerously high wind speeds of 80 mph.
The latest track is northeasterly but it is forecast to veer onto a more southeasterly heading after making landfall on the west coast of Ireland.
Tropical Storm Melissa formed on Saturday, October 12 off the Mid-Atlantic States with wind speeds of 50 mph. It tracked northeasterly and by October 14 it had weakened into a Post Tropical Cyclone.
Melissa did however cause significant beach erosion and coastal flooding along the Eastern Seaboard.
Tropical Storm Nestor formed on Friday, October 18 in the Gulf of Mexico with wind speeds of 60 mph. It is tracking northeast and is expected to make landfall near Apalachicola in the Florida Panhandle.
It is forecast to track close to Tallahassee before passing into Georgia and the Carolinas.