By MAGGIE LAWRENCE
Special to Atmore News
AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – This year’s hurricane season appears to be developing into an active one. Now, only a few days from the official beginning of hurricane season (June 1), three storms have already been named. Two named storms developed before June 1 while a third earned the name Cristobal on Tuesday.
Forecaster predictions for 2020
For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predict a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting 13 to 19 named storms. According to the center, six to 10 of these storms could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher). This prediction includes that as many as six major hurricanes (category three, four or five with winds of 111 mph or higher) could develop.
As a comparison, the average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, with six of those becoming hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
Why such an active season?
According to NOAA, El Nino conditions are expected to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Nina. That means there will not be an El Nino present to suppress hurricane activity. Other factors that increase the likelihood of an active season include
* warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea
* reduced vertical wind shear
* weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds
* enhanced west-African monsoon season
In recent years, 2017 was the most active year with 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes. Three category four storms struck the U.S. that year.
“The best way to protect your home and family is by preparing ahead of time,” said Gary Lemme, director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “Plan and prepare now. Waiting until a storm is headed toward Alabama is the absolute worst thing you can do.”
* Create emergency plans.
* Find multiple evacuation routes.
* Establish a meeting place away from home.
* Take a first aid class.
* Practice evacuating your home.
* Store emergency contacts in phones and list on paper.
* Build emergency kits for home, car and work.
People need to make sure their emergency kits include items to reduce exposure to COVID-19. If individuals must evacuate, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that they bring items that can help protect themselves and others in the shelter from COVID-19. These items might include hand sanitizer, cleaning materials and two cloth face coverings per person.
Lemme encourages Alabama residents to bookmark Alabama Extension’s Emergency Handbook on their mobile devices. The handbook brings together recommendations from national emergency response agencies and major universities into one easy-to-understand, interactive reference.
The materials in the handbook address nearly 50 disaster preparation and recovery topics in four broad categories including people and pets, home and business, landscape and garden and farms and livestock.
The Alabama Extension Emergency Handbook is also available as a free iBook download.
Maggie Lawrence is an agent with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.