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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

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Another busy Atlantic hurricane season expected

Another busy Atlantic hurricane season expected

Last year’s hurricane season was more than twice as active as a typical season, and an onslaught of storms left deep wounds across the Caribbean and southern United States that have not yet healed. But, ready or not, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1.

As it has done every year since 1984, Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers predicted Thursday the Atlantic hurricane season will be slightly above-average this year. The researchers cited a "relatively low likelihood of significant El Niño" conditions as a main factor.

In total, the team believes there will be 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes (with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater), which is slightly above the long-term average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Last year saw 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.

They explained why El Niño patterns are likely to make a difference.

"El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form," the researchers said.

The team forms their forecasts by using 60 years of data, referencing sea surface temperatures, vertical wind shear levels, sea level pressures, El Niño conditions and other factors. They plan to provide updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

While the CSU team said their predictions provide "a best estimate" of what to expect, they're not foolproof, and coastal residents should be sure and take precautions to protect themselves.

"It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season," said Michael Bell, an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science, who worked on the report.

A couple of classic examples of why you need to be prepared each year occurred in 1992 and 1983.

The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.

In 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida.

In contrast, the 2010 season was active. There were 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic Basin. But despite the large number of storms that year, not a single hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the United States.

In other words, a season can deliver many storms, but have little impact, or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact.

In 2017, seven named storms impacted the U.S. coast, including Puerto Rico, most notably hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which battered Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, respectively.

It's impossible to know for certain if a U.S. hurricane strike, or multiple strikes, will occur this season. Keep in mind, however, that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly, resulting in flooding rainfall.

The names of all the Atlantic tropical storms for 2018 are Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, and William.