Updated Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook Predicts Below Normal Season

Aug 10, 2015

Hurricane Isabel approaching the North Carolina Outer Banks as observed from the NOAA-15 Satellite. North Carolina, Atlantic Ocean. 2003 September 18.
Credit NOAA

It's been quiet in the tropics this hurricane season, and that trend will continue according to forecasters.  The updated forecast from the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center indicates that a below-normal hurricane season is very likely. The outlook calls for a 90% chance of a below-normal season, the highest probability given by NOAA for any such season since their seasonal hurricane outlooks began in August 1998.

So far, it’s been a quiet hurricane season, and scientists say that trend will continue.  Colorado State University updated their Atlantic Hurricane Season predictions this week, forecasting eight named storms, two hurricanes, and one major hurricane with sustained winds in excess of 110 mph.  Warning Coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service John Cole says we should see a below normal year for hurricane development.

 “Strong El Nino has developed in the eastern Pacific in the tropical areas there.  What that will typically do is because unfavorable conditions across the Atlantic Hurricane basin especially in the main genesis area, which is off the coast of Africa, you get a lot of sheering winds in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere.  Plus, there’s been a lot of dry air coming off the coast of Africa. So we expect that to continue through the year and inhibit development.”

We’ve had three named storms so far this year; Tropical Storm Claudette which stayed off the coast of North Carolina in July, Tropical Storm Bill which made landfall in Texas in June, and Tropical Storm Ana which impacted eastern North Carolina three weeks before the official start of hurricane season on June 1st.

Ana made landfall near North Myrtle Beach on May 10th with sustained winds of 45 miles per hour.   The tropical storm was downgraded to a tropical depression as it slowly moved into eastern North Carolina, dumping several inches of rain across the region.  Cole says Onslow County received the most rainfall, about 4 to 5 inches.

“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 at a mobile home park in Lenoir County where ten homes were cut-off by the high water, four to five feet deep.   In Dare County, a waterspout was reported over Croatan Sound.  It eventually became a tornado when it came on land in Manteo.  Estimated wind speeds of less than 100 mph toppled several trees and damaged roofs.

It’s rare we have tropical storms and hurricanes before June.  But now that we are in the dog days of summer, we are entering into the most active period for tropical cyclone development.

 “We still have the major part of the hurricane season to go.  Really the peak of the hurricane season isn’t until September 10th, so August, September and October are the main months.”

And while  conditions aren’t favorable for storm development off the coast of Africa due to El Nino conditions, Cole says there’s still a possibly that storms can gather strength in the warm waters off the southeastern coast.

 “We call them our ‘home grown’ systems.  That is likely where systems may form.  But you never know.  If conditions are favorable out there in the Gulf Stream and off the southeast coast, the upper level winds are favorable, there’s a possibility systems could develop rapidly.  One that comes to mind, you don’t go back too far ago, you go back to ’04, and the first named storm of the year was Alex. And that was a weaker tropical storm off our coastline being sheered, and then it got outside the sheer zone and started moving to the northeast and it developed into a category 2 hurricane not more than 10 or 15 miles off the southern Outer Banks.”

Both Tropical Storm Ana and Tropical Storm Claudette are examples of home grown systems that have developed this year.  As we approach the peak of hurricane season, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to prepare for a possible storm.  Cole recommends preparing a disaster kit with enough non-perishable food and water to feed your family for five days.

“There could be a situation where there’s a major disaster where emergency responders can’t get to those areas for that length of time to bring any supplies in.  So I think it’s really important to have that supplies kit, the flashlight, the extra batteries, the weather radio.”

Other items to add include extra clothing, a first aid kit, emergency tools, credit card and cash and prescription medications.  In addition to a disaster supplies kit, you can also prepare ahead by trimming dead branches off trees, creating an evacuation plan and removing items from around your home that can blow around in the high winds.  To see more storm preparedness tips, we’ve posted some helpful links on our website, publicradioeast.org.