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Storm Season 2024: Preparing for an "extremely active" Atlantic Hurricane Season

Category: Your Health & Wellness
Published: May, 23 2024 04:05:09

Hurricane forecasters are predicting a very active 2024 Atlantic hurricane season which starts June 1st and runs through November 30th - although it is possible to have hurricanes outside of this 6-month period.

In early April, hurricane researchers from the Colorado State University (CSU) predicted that the 2024 hurricane season will be “extremely active with 23 named storm with 11 storms becoming hurricanes and five [5] of these hurricanes to develop into major hurricanes.  The April 4, 2024 CSU press release noted that this 2024 hurricane forecast “is the highest prediction for hurricanes that CSU has ever issued with their April outlook.”

On May 23, researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) added to the CSU 2024 forecast predicting a high probability of an “above-normal” 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season with a range of 17 to 25 named storms, 8 to 13 storms becoming hurricanes, and 4 to 7 hurricanes developing into major hurricanes.  In short, the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season forecast is resembling the historically active 2020 season (see the chart below for historical hurricane activity).

On June 11, Colorado State University researchers maintained their April  4th Atlantic hurricane forecast for an “extremely active” hurricane season.  CSU will provide additional Atlantic hurricane season forecast updates on July 9 and August 6.

QuestionWhat is the difference between a named storm - a hurricane - and a major hurricane?

A "named storm" has winds reaching 39 mph or higher.  A storm is then classified as a hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph or higher, and a hurricane becomes a major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) when winds reach 111 mph or higher.

Important:  With the number of storms predicted by NOAA increasing well beyond past years, the public is cautioned to never underestimate a named storm and to begin preparing early for the possibility of hurricanes.  As noted by FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell in 2023:
“As we saw with [the 2022] Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives. So regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path.”

QuestionSo what is considered an "average" Atlantic Hurricane season?

NOAA noted that, based on data from 1991 to 2020, an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms of which 7 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.  Colorado State University forecasters found the same 14.4 average numbers of named storms from 1991 to 2020 with 7.2 hurricanes and 3.2 major hurricanes.

Question:  How accurate are the recent NOAA Atlantic hurricane forecasts?

Quite accurate.
  As shown when comparing past predictions with actual storm activity below, the NOAA forecasters are usually quite accurate when predicting hurricane season (with 2020 being an exceptional year with a record-breaking 30 named storms).

Last May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a “near-normal” 2023 Atlantic hurricane season with a range of 12 to 17 named storms.  Then, in August, NOAA upgraded the 2023 hurricane forecast to “above normal” with 14-21 named storms, 6 to 11 storms becoming hurricanes, and 2 to 5 becoming major hurricanes.  

The NOAA's August 2023 updated forecast revision proved to be more accurate as the 2023 hurricane season ended with 20 named storms, 7 storms becoming hurricanes, and 3 hurricanes becoming major hurricanes.  And, with 20 named storms, 2023 ranked as the year with the fourth largest number of named storms since 1950.

The chart below shows how the upper limit of NOAA Named Storm, Hurricane, and Major Hurricane predictions (dotted lines) compare to the actual number of Named Storms. Hurricanes, and Major Hurricanes (solid lines).

NOAA Hurricane predictions as compared to actual

Bottom Line:  Don't wait to see if the annual NOAA Hurricane Forecast is accurate, prepare now for this year's Hurricane season.  Both NOAA and CSU recommend preparing early for hurricane season - regardless of how active a season is predicted.

As noted by NOAA:
"Hurricane disasters can occur whether the season is active or relatively quiet. It only takes one hurricane (or even a tropical storm) to cause a disaster. Therefore, residents, businesses, and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions are urged to prepare for every hurricane season regardless of this, or any other, seasonal outlook. NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the NHC, the Small Business Administration, and the American Red Cross all provide important hurricane preparedness information on their web sites."

-- The 2022 NOAA hurricane forecast compared to actual 2022 storm activity.

Predicted Named Storms: 14 to 21
Actual Named Storms: 14

NOAA predicted an above-normal 2022 Atlantic hurricane season with a 65% chance of 14 to 21 named storms, with 6 to 10 storms becoming hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and of these hurricanes, 3 to 6 storms could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with winds reaching 111 mph or higher. (see: www.nhc.noaa.gov/data/tcr/index.php?season=2022&basin=atl)

At the end of 2022, NOAA noted that, "this hurricane season produced 14 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which eight [8] became hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater) and two [2] intensified to major hurricanes with winds reaching 111 mph or greater."

-- Comparing the 2021 NOAA hurricane forecast to actual 2021 storm activity

Predicted Named Storms: 13 to 20
Actual Named Storms: 21

NOAA predicted an above-normal 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with a 60% chance of 13 to 20 named storms, with 6 to 10 storms becoming hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and of these hurricanes, 3 to 5 storms could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with winds reaching 111 mph or higher.  (see: www.noaa.gov/news-release/noaa-predicts-another-active-atlantic-hurricane-season)

At the end of 2021, NOAA noted that, "[o]verall, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season featured above normal activity.  Twenty-one [21] named storms formed, of which seven [7] became hurricanes and four [4] became major hurricanes - category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  This compares to the long-term average of 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes."

-- Looking back at the "record-breaking" 2020 NOAA forecast

Predicted Named Storms: 13 to 19
Actual Named Storms: 30

As mentioned above, NOAA predicted an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season with a chance of 13 to 19 named storms, with 6 to 10 storms becoming hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and of these hurricanes, 3 to 6 storms could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with winds reaching 111 mph or higher.  (see www.noaa.gov/ media-release/ busy-atlantic-hurricane-season-predicted- for-2020)

The actual 2020 Hurricane season had a record-breaking 30 named storms, with 12 storms making landfall and 6 storms becoming major hurricanes (with sustained winds over 111 mph).  NOAA noted that the 2020 hurricane season was “the fifth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26. This increased hurricane activity is attributed to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) — which began in 1995 — and has favored more, stronger, and longer-lasting storms since that time. Such active eras for Atlantic hurricanes have historically lasted about 25 to 40 years.”

-- Looking back at the 2019 NOAA forecast

Predicted Named Storms: 9 to 15
Actual Named Storms: 18

NOAA predicted a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season with a 70% chance of 9 to 15 named storms, with 4 to 8 storms becoming hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and of these hurricanes, 2 to 4 storms could become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with winds reaching 111 mph or higher.  (see: www.noaa.gov/ media-release/ noaa-predicts-near-normal- 2019-atlantic-hurricane-season)

And how accurate was NOAA's 2019 forecast?  NOAA noted that, "[o]verall, the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season featured above normal activity.  Eighteen [18] named storms formed, of which six [6] became hurricanes and three [3] became major hurricanes - category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.  This compares to the long-term average of twelve named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes."

The major hurricanes include Category-5 Hurricane Dorian with sustained winds of 185 mph that impacted the Bahamas in late-August 2019 causing 70 deaths with damages estimated at US$ 3.4 billion.

-- Looking back at the 2018 Atlantic hurricane forecast

Predicted Named Storms: 10 to 16
Actual Named Storms: 15

In 2018, the forecasters at NOAA predicted an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2018 with a "70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms ..., of which 5 to 9 [storms] could become hurricanes ..., including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher)."

And yes, NOAA's 2018 hurricane prediction was quite accurate:
"Fifteen [15] named storms formed, of which eight [8] became hurricanes and two [2] became major hurricanes - category 3 or higher [Hurricanes Florence (140 mph max winds) and Michael (155 mph max winds)]. . .."
(www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/ MIATWSAT.shtml)

-- Looking back at 2017

Predicted Named Storms: 11 to 17
Actual Named Storms: 17

In May 2017, NOAA predicted an above-normal 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, with a "70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 [storms] could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). [As a note: a]n average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes."

As you might know, the National Hurricane Center has rotating lists of names (organized in alphabetical order) used to identify tropical storms and hurricanes.  If a storm is especially "memorable," the hurricane name is retired from the lists.

Was the 2017 NOAA hurricane forecast accurate?
NOAA's 2017 hurricane prediction was not only accurate, but "[d]ue to the extensive damage caused in the United States and Caribbean [during 2017], the World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee has officially retired [the hurricane names "Harvey" (Cat. 4), "Irma" (Cat. 5), "Maria" (Cat. 5), and "Nate" (Cat. 1)]."  The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season included 17 named storms with 10 becoming hurricanes of which six became major hurricanes - and included "the first two major hurricanes to hit the continental U.S. in 12 years".

-- Looking back at NOAA's 2016 prediction

Predicted Named Storms: 10 to 16
Actual Named Storms: 15

In May 2016, NOAA predicted a near-normal 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, with a 70 percent chance of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher).  Of these possible named storms, 4 to 8 storms could develop into hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) and include 1 to 4 major hurricanes (with winds of 111 mph or higher).

In reality, the 2016 Hurricane season turned out to be "the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes." NOAA noted:
"The strongest and longest-lived storm of the season was Matthew, which reached maximum sustained surface winds of 160 miles per hour and lasted as a major hurricane for eight days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7.  Matthew was the first category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin since Felix in 2007."
In the United States, as the storm approached about 2 million people evacuated Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina - resulting in fairly massive traffic jams.  In the end, over 600 deaths resulted from Hurricane Matthew (mostly in the Caribbean) and, according to NOAA, the estimated financial loss attributed to Hurricane Matthew was around $10 billion dollars.

Here are some common terms and tips from Ready.gov that you might hear during the Hurricane Season

-- Hurricane Watch
(hurricane conditions possible within the next 48 hrs).

Steps to take:
• Review your evacuation route(s) & listen to local officials.
• Review the items in your disaster supply kit; and add items to meet the household needs for children, parents, individuals with disabilities or other access and functional needs or pets.

-- Hurricane Warning
(hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hrs).

Steps to take:
• Follow evacuation orders from local officials, if given.
• Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
• Follow the hurricane timeline preparedness checklist, depending on when the storm is anticipated to hit and the impact that is projected for your location.

The added importance of advanced preparation: The Hurricane Season and COVID-19

As was true in past years, people are reminded to prepare early for hurricanes and other natural disasters due to any added CDC guidance dealing with the COVID-19.

What to do when a hurricane is 36 hours from arriving

• Turn on your TV or radio in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
• Build or restock your emergency preparedness kit. Include a flashlight, batteries, cash, and first aid supplies.
• Plan how to communicate with family members if you lose power. For example, you can call, text, email or use social media. Remember that during disasters, sending text messages is usually reliable and faster than making phone calls because phone lines are often overloaded.
• Review your evacuation plan with your family. You may have to leave quickly so plan ahead.
• Keep your car in good working condition, and keep the gas tank full; stock your vehicle with emergency supplies and a change of clothes.

What to do when a hurricane is 18-36 hours from arriving

• Bookmark your city or county website for quick access to storm updates and emergency instructions.
• Bring loose, lightweight objects inside that could become projectiles in high winds (e.g., patio furniture, garbage cans); anchor objects that would be unsafe to bring inside (e.g., propane tanks); and trim or remove trees close enough to fall on the building.
• Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” exterior grade or marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install.

What to do when a hurricane is 6-18 hours from arriving

• Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.
• Charge your cell phone now so you will have a full battery in case you lose power.

What to do when a hurricane is 6 hours from arriving

• If you’re not in an area that is recommended for evacuation, plan to stay at home or where you are and let friends and family know where you are.
• Close storm shutters, and stay away from windows. Flying glass from broken windows could injure you.
• Turn your refrigerator or freezer to the coldest setting and open only when necessary. If you lose power, food will last longer. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator to be able to check the food temperature when the power is restored.
• Turn on your TV/radio, or check your city/county website every 30 minutes in order to get the latest weather updates and emergency instructions.

What to do after a Hurricane

• Listen to local officials for updates and instructions.
• Check-in with family and friends by texting or using social media.
• Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe.
• Watch out for debris and downed power lines.
• Avoid walking or driving through flood waters. Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down, and fast-moving water can sweep your vehicle away.
• Avoid flood water as it may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines and may hide dangerous debris or places where the ground is washed away.
• Photograph the damage to your property in order to assist in filing an insurance claim.
• Do what you can to prevent further damage to your property, (e.g., putting a tarp on a damaged roof), as insurance may not cover additional damage that occurs after the storm.

More Details about preparing for Hurricane Season

If you would like to learn how to prepare for the hurricane season, take a look at the suggestions provided on the NOAA Hurricane Preparedness site: www.nhc.noaa.gov/ prepare/ready.php and www.weather.gov/wrn/ hurricane-preparedness, and ready.gov.

Also, here are also a few tips from the Florida Disaster Preparedness Guide for Elders (found at: elderaffairs.state.fl.us/ doea/disaster.php): elderaffairs.state.fl.us/ doea/pubs/EU/EUdisaster2015/ Disaster_Guide_2015_English_Web.pdf
  • Educate yourself and know where you want to go
    Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, evacuation routes, and location of emergency shelters.  For example, during Hurricane Matthew, many of the barriers islands along the eastern coast were evacuated and residents were required to show passes or car tags for readmission onto the islands. Check with your local authorities to see whether your community requires some form of pass or identification after an evacuation.

  • Be aware of potential home hazards
    Be prepared to turn off electrical power when there is standing water or a fallen power line, or before you evacuate.  Turn off gas and water supplies before you evacuate.  Secure structurally unstable materials (building material, grills, and propane tanks).

  • Own a fire extinguisher (and know how to use it)
    Buy a fire extinguisher and make sure your family knows where to find it and how to use it.  If you have an older extinguisher (over a year old), be sure that it is still functional and inspected by a professional.

  • Secure important documents
    Locate and secure your important papers, such as insurance policies, wills, licenses, and stock certificates.

  • Collect contact information
    Post emergency phone numbers at every telephone or save the number in your mobile phone.  Some examples of important numbers include your insurance agent, local hospitals, local utilities, local law enforcement, and fire/rescue.

  • Do you or someone in the house have special needs?
    Inform local authorities if your household includes someone with special needs (such as, a person who is bed-ridden or disabled and has mobility issues).

  • Prepare a disaster supply kit
    Stock your home, car, and workplace with supplies that may be needed during the emergency period (such as, food, water, prescriptions, and non-prescription medications). You should stock food and water for a minimum of a three-day period.  If you are diabetic, be sure to have a means to keep your medications cool while traveling or during a power outage (such as a well-insulated mini-cooler).  If you have a pet, look now for a pet-friendly shelter and have pet supplies ready.  Do not forget to have some cash on hand as ATM and credit card readers may not be functional if there is no electricity.  The government's site (www.ready.gov/build-a-kit) provides some additional information.

    FEMA's Basic Disaster Supply Kit includes: 

    • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
    • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
    • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
    • Flashlight and extra batteries
    • First aid kit
    • Whistle to signal for help
    • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
    • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
    • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
    • Manual can opener for food supplies
    • Local maps
    • Cell phone with chargers, automobile power inverters / adapters or solar charger

Sources Include:
NOAA monthly Atlantic weather summary: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/text/MIATWSAT.shtml
https://tropical.colostate.edu/resources.html#realtime or https://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/Realtime/
NOAA Historical Archives:  https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/data/tcr/index.php?season=2022&basin=atl

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