The first hurricane of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season made landfall on the eastern coast of Mexico early in the morning Aug. 10.
If you’ve not yet taken time to prepare, now would likely be a good time, as hurricane season enters what is historically the busiest time of the season. And forecasters are saying activity could be more than the pre-season outlook predicted.
NOAA’s climate experts gave odds of 45 percent that the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season would have above average activity in the May pre-season outlook. Those experts have since updated those odds to 60 percent.
NOAA updated its seasonal forecast Aug. 9. Forecasters increased the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes. They say the season could be the most active since 2010. Nineteen named storms formed that year and 12 strengthened into hurricanes.
“We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Nino forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.”
In May, forecasters predicted 11-17 named storms would form this season. The new forecast calls for 14-19. They also predicted that five-nine hurricanes would form and that forecast carried forward to the new outlook; however, the number of major hurricanes forecast increased, going from 2-4 predicted in May, to 2-5 predicted with the August outlook.
An average season produces 12 named storms, six hurricane and three major hurricanes.
Since the season began on June 1, six named storms have formed, which is about half the number that occur during an average season and double the number that usually form by early August.
Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April, well before the official start of the season. Bret and Cindy formed in June, followed by Don and Emily in July. The first hurricane of the season, Franklin made landfall as a Category 1 along the eastern coast of Mexico in the early morning hours Aug. 10.
“Today’s updated outlook underscores the need for everyone to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “As we enter the height of hurricane season, it’s important for everyone to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update their insurance and have a preparedness plan.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott reminded residents Aug. 1 that hurricane season is a time when sudden threats of severe weather could occur. He was referring to Tropical Storm Emily, which had posed no threat to the state until July 31 when a system of disturbed weather rapidly intensified overnight. Pinellas County was under a tropical storm warning and flood watch much of that day with some forecasts bringing Emily onshore in the county.
However, Pinellas was spared. Emily made landfall on Anna Maria Island July 31. Minor damage, flooding and numerous power outages were reported in some parts of the state, none of which occurred in Pinellas.
Hurricane season ends Nov. 30. Peak activity usually occurs from late August through September.
Pinellas County updated its evacuation maps and storm surge models this year. Evacuation levels changed for more than 85,000 properties. Residents and visitors can check evacuation levels at www.pinellascounty.org/knowyourzone, by using the storm surge protector web-based application available at www.pinellacounty.org and via the interactive voice response system at 727-453-3150.