The Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins June 1 and will continue through November 30. Hurricane Ike back in September 2008 was the last major threat to life and property we faced in Texas. Ironically we started Texas Storm Chasers in 2009 – coincidence? While we can hope we never have to cover a major hurricane event in Texas that simply isn’t realistic. We’re overdue for another high-impact hurricane in Texas and one day our luck will run out. The good news is we typically have days to prepare ahead of time before a hurricane impacts the state. Many folks have moved to Texas since the late 2000s or simply have become complacent. It only takes one storm hitting Texas to make an otherwise ‘quiet’ season one that will be remembered for decades.
2015 Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico 2015 Season Prediction
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, parent organization of the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, issued this press release last week.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be below-normal, but that’s no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.
For the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 – November 30, NOAA is predicting a 70 percent likelihood of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a below-normal season is likely (70 percent), there is also a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew – a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida.
“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”
Watches and Warnings
Understanding the difference between National Weather Service watches and warnings is critical to being prepared for any dangerous weather hazard, including hurricanes.
A watch lets you know that weather conditions are favorable for a hazard to occur. It literally means “be on guard!” During a weather watch, gather awareness of the specific threat and prepare for action – monitor the weather to find out if severe weather conditions have deteriorated and discuss your protective action plans with your family.
A warning requires immediate action. This means a weather hazard is imminent – it is either occurring (a tornado has been spotted, for example) – or it is about to occur at any moment. During a weather warning, it is important to take action: grab the emergency kit you have prepared in advance and head to safety immediately. Both watches and warnings are important, but warnings are more urgent.
Finally the free 2015 Houston/Galveston Hurricane Workshop will be at the George R. Brown Convention Center on Saturday, June 6 from 10 AM to 3 PM. This free event is a fun way to learn more about hurricanes, how to be prepared for them, and meet the forecasters and emergency officials who help keep Southeast Texas safe. Several exhibitors will be present and I personally hope to attend the event if we’re still in a quiet storm chasing pattern this weekend.