Despite Early Tropical Storm, Below Average Hurricane Season Predicted

May 15, 2015

Tropical Storm Ana off the East Coast May 9th, 2015
Credit NASA Earth Observatory

Three weeks from the official start of Hurricane season, Tropical Storm Ana impacted eastern North Carolina dumping several inches of rain across the region and triggering a  tornado along the Outer Banks.  Five rresidents in Lenoir County had to be evacuated due to rising flood waters.  

Even though the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season is June 1st, eastern North Carolina has already been through one named storm.  Tropical Storm Ana came early this year.  The last storm that came before the start of the hurricane season was 12 years ago, and it beared the same name.  Even though the storm was minimal, it dumped several inches of rain across the rain region. Warning Coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service John Cole says Onslow County received the most rainfall, about 4 to 5 inches on Sunday and Monday.

“The remnants came up into our area that day, the day of landfall.  And it did produce a lot of heavy rainfall for us. Some areas like Jones County and Lenoir County had some flooding with the rivers as well. So that was out main impact.”

Four people had to be rescued Monday morning at a mobile home park in Lenoir County where ten homes were cut-off by the high water, four to five feet deep.   The flooding continued on Tuesday along Owens Smith Road where an elderly man had to be rescued after he fell in his home.  According to WITN, the 92-year-old man was evacuated by boat and taken to the hospital by ambulance. 

In Dare County, a waterspout was reported over Croatan Sound on Monday afternoon.   It eventually became a tornado when it came on land in Manteo around 5:20.  Estimated wind speeds of less than 100 mph toppled several trees and damaged roofs.  Cole says areas along the immediate coast experienced rain, wind and minor storm surge.

“Maybe one to two feet, and that’s pretty minimal.  We wouldn’t really have much of an impact from that. There were some higher sea level rises but not much.  I think the main impact was basically in the Cape Fear area where it made landfall, in the Wilmington area.”

Ana developed into a subtropical cyclone on May 7th from a stalled cold front and an upper level system of low pressure.  As the storm slowly moved northwest, it gathered strength in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.  That’s where Cole says Ana reached maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour.

“But as soon as it got away from the warm water of the Gulf Stream, and started moving toward land, the shelf waters were much colder and it started to weaken as it made its way to the coastline.”

Tropical Storm Ana made landfall around 6 am on Mother’s Day around North Myrtle Beach with maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.  Shortly after making it to land, the tropical storm was downgraded to a tropical depression.

Ana’s early arrival caught many off guard and fortunately it wasn’t a strong storm.  Cole says just because a tropical storm came early this year doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be an active hurricane season.

“There have been many seasons that started out very early and they end up below normal. Honestly, that’s about what we’re expecting this year. And one of the reasons is we’re already in El Nino which is an abnormal warming in the Pacific waters along the Equator. And what that would tend to do is create a lot of clouds and precipitation in that area, which in turn creates higher mid-level and high level winds that move across the Atlantic hurricane basin.”

This generates a sheering wind that hinders tropical cyclone development.

The official 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration won’t be released until the end of the month. But Colorado State University is forecasting a below average season, with seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane.  Still, Cole warns that strong hurricanes have impacted eastern North Carolina in below normal years. 

“We tell people when we go out on our outreach events that it only takes one, it only takes one hurricane to have a big impact on an area.  So we need to keep our guard up and have our plans in place.”

The best thing you can do to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season is assemble a disaster kit.  If you still have the kit from last year, you may need to update some of the items. 

“A three day supply of water, non-perishable food as well, changes of clothing, first aid kit, emergency tools, flashlights, credit card and cash available and also those medicines you need on hand as well.”

These are just a few items you should include in your kit.  Cole says you can prepare by trimming dead branches off trees that threaten your home.  An evacuation plan is also helpful.  For a list of items to include in your disaster kit, go to http://www.ready.gov/kit.