WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM HURRICANES THIS SEASON
It is always difficult to predict the upcoming hurricane season. With the start of the season beginning June 1, 2019 which will run until November 30th, people always want to know how many hurricanes can we expect this year. Colorado State University is one of the leading institutes for hurricane research and offers predictions each year. These predictions are based on several factors including El Niño, sea surface temperatures, statistical models, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels and other factors. This forecast will be updated on July 2nd and August 6th and could change.
Hurricanes use warm, moist air as fuel which is why they form over warm ocean waters. As the warm moist air rises, it leaves a vacuum near the surface causing an area of low pressure. Dry air from surrounding areas rushes in to the low pressure area which then becomes warm and moist and rises as well. As the warm air rises, the surrounding air swirls in to take its place and starts the rotation. As the warm air rises and cools off, the water in the air forms clouds which create the hurricane. When the winds in the storm reach 39 miles per hour, it is labeled as a “tropical storm”. When speeds reach 74 miles per hour, the storm is labeled as a hurricane. A category one hurricane is between 74-95 miles per hour. A category two is between 96-110 miles per hour. A category three is between 111-129 miles per hour. A category four is between 130-156 miles per hour. Once hurricane wind speeds reach 157 miles per hour or higher, it is a category five.
Because hurricanes need warm moist winds to form, the sea surface temperature becomes important. According to Colorado State University, the tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are below average for this time of year. The warmer the sea surface temperatures, the more likely hurricanes will form. Because sea surface temperatures are below average, this could lessen the occurrence of hurricanes. Forecasters also look at El Niño which is a weather system in the Pacific Ocean which happens every two to five years. El Niño occurs when surface waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean increase around Christmas along the coast of Ecuado and Peru. Further El Niño conditions tend to increase upper-level westerly winds which tend to inhibit the formation of hurricanes in the Caribbean. However, with that being said, Colorado State University is still predicting 13 named storms with five becoming hurricanes and two becoming major hurricanes.
The National Oceanic Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting a normal hurricane season of four to eight hurricanes and up to 15 powerful storms. They also predict that of the four to eight hurricanes, two to four will be major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. Even though they classify it as a normal hurricane season, they acknowledged that this is still a lot of activity. There is still a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season. This is due to a generation-long period of elevated hurricane activity known as the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation which is a patter that historically lasts 25 to 40 years.
AccuWeather used 126 years of hurricane data dating back to the 1800’s and predicated the top five cities that were likely to be hit by a hurricane. Of those top five, Florida had three cities in the list. Miami Florida made the top of the list with a 16% chance based on data that said a hurricane will pass this city within 50 miles every six to eight years. The last major hurricane to hit the city was Hurricane Andrew in 1992 which had winds of 165 miles per hour. Key West also shares a 16 percent chance which is directly impacted by a hurricane every 6.04 years. Cap Hatteras in North Carolina was next on the list with a 15 percent chance right above Tampa which has an 11 percent chance. Tampa last suffered a direct hit in 1921 which was known as the Tampa Bay Hurricane but 68 tropical storms and hurricanes have passed within 60 miles of the city. The city to round up the list was New Orleans with an 11 percent chance as well.
Based on all of the above, if you live in Florida, even a normal hurricane season can be a devastating one if you are in the path of a hurricane. Floridians should not take hurricane season lightly and should make sure they are prepared each and every season. Prepare an emergency water supply, an emergency food and medicine supply, gather safety items like first aid kits and battery powered radios, gather personal car products and create a family plan. If you own a business, you need to start now and create a plan for the protection of your business assets and employees.
After the hurricane, you still need to take measures to stay safe. Never use a wet electrical device. If the power is off, use flashlights instead of candles which can cause fires. If you building is damaged by the hurricane, you may need to leave. If you hear sudden shifting or creaking, you may need to get out. Be careful not to get carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t use gas or coal burning stoves or grills inside your home. If you have a generator, keep it at least 20 feet from the home away from windows and doors. Never run a car or truck inside. Never heat your home with a gas oven. If your carbon monoxide detector starts beeping, leave your home immediately. Stay away from flood water and power lines that have fallen or are down.
Once things have cleared, make sure you have the right safety equipment to begin cleanup. This could include hard hats, gloves, safety goggles, waterproof boots and ear plugs if using chain saws. Try to lift heavy objects in teams and pace yourself. Because we are in Florida, you also need to be careful of working in the heat. Try to stay cool or take breaks in shaded or cool rooms. Do outdoor activities in cooler hours like the morning or evening. Also try to prevent mold growth by cleaning and drying your home within 24 to 48 hours. If you have hurricane damage, call your insurance company as soon as you can and report a claim. Remember you have a duty to mitigate your damage under the insurance policy (protect your property from further damage) so board up or tarp what you can. If you have questions about how to submit a claim, what you must do after you submit a claim, or what coverages you have, call Christopher Ligori & Associates for a free consultation. We are hear to try to get you through this difficult time and will be glad to help.