On May 20, 2021, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) released their annual prediction
calling for an above-normal 2021 Atlantic hurricane season this year with "a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms
" (as compared to the similar 2020 prediction
of 13 to 19 named storms). Named storms have winds of 39 mph or higher.
Of the predicted storms, 6 to 10 storms
could become 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.
On April 8, 2021, meteorologist at Colorado State University
(CSU) also predicted an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season with 17
named storms, 4
storms becoming major hurricanes, and now also show a country / parish probability of impact by storms.
So what is considered an "average" Atlantic Hurricane season?
NOAA states that: "[a]n average hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which 6
become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes." CSU forecasters note that the average number of named storms from 1991 to 2020 was 14.4 with 3.2 major hurricanes.
And the 2021Atlantic Hurricane Season is off to an early start . . . again.
Although the 6-month 2021
Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and continues through November 30, one named storm was already recorded: Ana. (see: https://tropical.colostate.edu/resources.html#realtime)
How accurate are the recent NOAA Atlantic hurricane forecasts?
Looking back at the 2020 NOAA forecast
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 https://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
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:
https://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  named storms formed, of which six  became hurricanes and three  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
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  named storms formed, of which eight  became hurricanes and two  became major hurricanes - category 3 or higher [Hurricanes Florence (140 mph max winds) and Michael (155 mph max winds)]. . .."
Looking back at 2017
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)]."
Looking back at NOAA's 2016 prediction
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
Bottom Line: Don't wait to see if the annual NOAA Hurricane Forecast is accurate, prepare now for this year's Hurricane season.
The 2021 Eastern (and Central) Pacific Hurricane Outlook
The eastern Pacific hurricane season began on May 15th and, like the Atlantic hurricane season, also ends November 30th. The forecast from NOAA
for the eastern Pacific is for a 80% combined chance of near- or below-normal season
Specifically, the eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70 percent probability of 12 to 18 named storms, of which 5 to 10 storms are expected to become hurricanes, including 2 to 5 major hurricanes.
The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 2 to 5 tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes." (see: "NOAA's 2021 Hurricane Season Outlooks" graphic for a summary of the Central Pacific, Eastern Pacific, and Atlantic Hurricane Seasons: https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/ products/Epac_hurr/ Slide1.JPG)
Reminder: Here are some common terms and tips from Ready.gov that you might hear during the Hurricane Season
(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 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 2021 Hurricane Season amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
As was true last year, NOAA reminds people to prepare early for hurricanes and other natural disasters due to the added CDC guidance
dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
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
• 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: https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/ prepare/ready.php
and https://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: http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/ doea/disaster.php
): http://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 (https://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