Hurricane prediction: below average

Published 12:03 am Friday, April 27, 2012

As the state remembers the deadly storms in North Alabama one year ago today, residents had good news on two fronts – the prediction of a below-average hurricane season and the creation of a tax-free holiday in July for purchasing disaster preparedness items.

This preseason forecast calls for 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

These forecast numbers are below the long-term average from 1950-2011 of 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes, and well below the averages for the current active era from 1995-2011 of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes).

“After very active tropical seasons in 2010 and 2011, we expect fewer storms to develop this hurricane season,” said Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford with Weather Services International, a part of The Weather Channel Companies.

“The combination of much cooler North Atlantic ocean temperatures and a trend towards El Niño conditions suggest a notable reduction in activity,” he said. “There is still uncertainty regarding the development of El Niño, which will impact future forecast updates. If the chances of El Niño development increase, our forecast numbers will likely go down even further in future updates.”

On Thursday, legislators in the Alabama Senate passed HB 436, a bill that would create a special tax-free weekend for disaster preparedness items in July.

The bill comes in the wake of the terrible storms that ravaged the state last April and will encourage Alabamians to prepare themselves for the future, said Sen. Greg Reed, R-Jasper, the bill’s sponsor in the senate.

“Last April, we saw unparalleled destruction across this state,” Reed said. “While our citizens are rebuilding their lives, we want to give them every opportunity to prepare themselves for the next time a storm hits.

“This disaster preparedness tax free weekend not only gives our citizens a chance to prepare for storms, but will provide an economic boost to Alabama businesses,” he said.

The tax-free weekend will occur July 6-8 and the last full weekend in February in subsequent years. Items covered include batteries, cell phone chargers, portable radios, waterproof sheeting, generators, bungee chords, duct tape, non-electric food storage and various other disaster preparedness items.

The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.