Tropical Storm Arthur kicks hurricane season off early

Tropical storm Arthur was located about 335 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina at 8 a.m. May 17. The first named storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is not threat to Florida.

The first tropical storm of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was moving offshore the east coast of United States Sunday morning. A tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of North Carolina.

Tropical Storm Arthur’s maximum sustained winds were 40 mph with higher gusts. At 8 a.m. May 17, Arthur was 335 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving north-northeast at 9 mph.

National Hurricane Center’s forecast track calls for Arthur to remain well offshore the east coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina today, before moving near or just east of the coast of North Carolina on Monday.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the North Carolina coast from Surf City to Duck and the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, which means tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere in the warning area within the next 24-36 hours.

NHC says Arthur’s maximum winds could increase as high as 60 mph before it loses its tropical characteristics on Tuesday. High surf is expected along the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast for the next couple of days with 1-3 inches of rain in North Carolina.

Early start to the season

The official start to hurricane season isn’t until June 1; however, this is the sixth consecutive year that an early named storm has formed.

Andrea kicked off the season on May 21, 2019, near Bermuda. Tropical Storm Alberto formed May 25, 2018, and came ashore along the Florida Panhandle on Memorial Day. Arlene got its name on April 19, 2017.

Alex formed on Jan. 12, 2016 and strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane. Bonnie was 2016’s second early storm forming on May 27. Ana launched the 2015 season on May 8.

Above normal season forecast

Forecasters are predicting that the 2020 hurricane season will have above-normal activity.

Hurricane experts from Colorado State University released their forecast on April 2 and predict 16 named tropical storms will form, eight of which will become hurricanes with four major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The long-term average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Eighteen named storms formed in 2019 with six strengthening into hurricanes and three became major hurricanes.

NOAA climate experts will release the annual hurricane season outlook on May 21.

Pinellas County residents are urged to prepare ahead. For more information and tips of hurricane preparedness in Pinellas, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/resident/disasters.htm.

Sales tax holiday

The state is sponsoring a seven-day Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax holiday, May 29-June 4 to encourage people stock up on a variety of disaster-preparedness supplies.

Tax-free items during holiday include flashlights and lanterns selling for $20 or less; self-powered radios, two-way radios or weather-band radios selling for $50 or less; tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting selling for $50 or less; gas or diesel fuel tanks selling for $25 or less; AA, AAA, C, D, 6-volt and 9-volt batteries, excluding automobile and boat batteries, selling for $30 or less ; non-electric food storage coolers selling for $30 or less; reusable ice selling for $10 or less; ground anchor systems or tie-down kits selling for $50 or less; and portable generators costing $750 or less.

Suzette Porter is TBN's Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.