Meteorologists are forecasting a “near-normal” season, but Mike Brennan, stressed Wednesday at a press conference that nothing is really normal when it comes to hurricanes.
It’s time for people along the southeast coast of the United States to make sure they are prepared for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season that kicks off today, Thursday.
Meteorologists are predicting a “near-normal” season, but Mike Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), stressed Wednesday at a press conference that nothing is really normal when it comes to hurricanes.
The names of this year’s storms are as follows: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold, Idalia, Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, Whitney.
“A normal season might sound good when compared to some hurricane seasons in recent years,” he commented. “But there’s nothing good about a near-normal hurricane season in terms of activity.”
Will the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season be intense?
Uncertainty is the key word, Brennan said.
The U.S. National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast in late May that there was a 40 percent chance that the 2023 hurricane season would be near normal, 30 percent that it would be more active than normal – that is: more storms than usual – and 30 percent below normal.
“So we anticipate an intense season with 12 to 17 named storms,” Brennan said, adding that five to nine of those could become hurricanes, and of those, one to four could be Category 3 or higher.
“It only takes one storm hitting where you live to make it an intense season,” he said.
What’s new this season?
For this year, the NHC developed a new storm surge model that – according to Brennan – “helps forecast storm surge 72 hours in advance of the storm’s arrival,” allowing it to relay life-saving information and evacuation orders to emergency authorities.
In addition, tropical weather forecasts were extended from five to seven days, giving residents “an extra edge” in making decisions about whether to evacuate their homes ahead of a storm, Brennan said.
What is El Niño and how will it affect the season?
El Niño is a temporary weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years and changes weather patterns globally.
Generally, the Atlantic is calmer and experiences fewer storms when it coincides with El Niño. This is because the warmer waters from El Niño cause warmer air over the Pacific to reach higher in the atmosphere and affect the wind shear that could deflect storms.
Brennan stressed that there are other factors that increase uncertainty about the effects of El Niño, such as very warm sea surface temperatures, weaker low-level easterly wind flows, and a more active African monsoon season.
“So these forces will impact the course of this hurricane season,” Brennan said. “We don’t know how the season is going to unfold.”
What is fema’s role?
Federal Disaster Management Agency (FEMA) Director Deanne Criswell said her agency is working to protect people in hurricane-affected areas by providing them with the “critical information they need” and making it easier for people to ask for assistance.
She said that during the northern summer, not only does the hurricane season begin, but also the wildfire season.
“We are in the summer season of severe weather events, but I think as you all know, it’s not just a severe weather summer season anymore” and year-round weather-related events occur, he stressed.
Why do hurricanes have names?
Hurricanes are named primarily to eliminate confusion in the event that two or more storm systems occur at the same time.
The United States began using female names for storms in 1953 and alternated with male names beginning in 1978.
There is a list of names for the Atlantic hurricane season that rotates every six years. The list can be repeated later and some names are dropped from the rotation, according to the NHC website.
The names for the 2023 Atlantic hurricanes are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold, Idalia, Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
A hurricane name is routinely retired if the storm caused so much death and destruction that it would be inappropriate to use it again. However, it is not up to the NHC to withdraw a name. That is up to the international committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which selects another name to replace the one that was withdrawn.
Among the most recent names to be retired is Ian, which hit southwest Florida as a Category 5 hurricane in September 2022 with very powerful winds and a storm surge that reached 4.5 meters (15 feet) high. Ian caused the deaths of 156 people in the United States, mostly in Florida, according to a NOAA report on the hurricane.
Other names retired have included Katrina, Harvey, Charley, Wilma, Matthew, Michael and Irma.
What have been some of the worst hurricanes in the U.S.?
In August 1992, the powerful Hurricane Andrew hit south of Miami, crossed Florida and made a second landfall in Louisiana. For years it was the costliest and most devastating hurricane ever to hit U.S. shores, killing some 65 people and causing more than $27.3 billion in damages at the time. The Category 5 storm destroyed more than 65,000 homes.
Hurricane Katrina, which hit the New Orleans area as a Category 3 storm in August 2005, still stands as one of the most devastating hurricanes in the United States. Katrina left more than 1,200 dead and catastrophic damage along the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Harvey struck Louisiana before hitting Houston as a Category 4 storm in 2017. Harvey caused severe flooding and left more than 80 people dead, including 50 in the Houston metropolitan area.
According to NOAA, Katrina and Harvey rank as the costliest hurricanes to hit the country, with damages of more than $160 billion and $125 billion, respectively.