We are two days away from the official start of hurricane season and we've already had two named storms. I've been getting questions like this one about how busy our hurricane season will be.
“It's not quite June 1st and we're already into the "B" in storm names. I'm scared for this season. What are the powers that be saying as far as their season forecast?” -- Marivonne
This is a good example of believe what I say and not what you see. All of the hurricane forecasts pretty much have an average amount of storms forming this hurricane season. The 30-year average is 12 storms per year, six becoming hurricanes and two major storms, category 3 or higher.
So how can we have an average number of storms form if we already have such a fast start? According to NOAA, the answer is simple: “In addition to near-average sea surface temperatures across much of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, known as the Main Development Region. Two factors now in place that can limit storm development, if they persist, are: strong wind shear, which is hostile to hurricane formation in the Main Development Region, and cooler sea surface temperatures in the far eastern Atlantic.”
Ocean temperatures need to be at least 80 degrees 125 feet deep for a tropical storm to form. A cooler ocean would translate to a less active hurricane season.
But what does this mean for us in southeast Texas? Nothing! Here's why: It's not the number of storms that is important, IT'S THE IMPACT! It only takes one storm a hurricane season to be devastating. The last two hurricane season saw a record number of storms form (19 in 2010 and 18 in 2011), but only one hurricane hit the United States. The last two seasons were incredibly active but there was no impact for Texas. Twenty years ago, Category 5 Hurricane Andrew hit Miami. It was one of six named storms to form that season. In 1993, category 3 Hurricane Alicia made a direct hit on us. It was one of only four storms to form that season.
It's not the number of storms that matter, it's the impact, so we should all prepare for one. Does your family have a hurricane plan and kit? I hope so.