Hurricane season begins

Published 1:08 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

EMA director: We are due

It has been more than a decade – 11 years to be exact – since a major hurricane struck the United States.

The last was Hurricane Wilma, a Category 3 storm, in 2005.

And if statisticians say, purely by the numbers, “We’re due,” local EMA director Susan Harris worries what 11 storm-free years will do to complacency levels if a storm threatens.

“That’s always been my biggest worry,” she said. “It only takes one. And if you’re not prepared for that one, you’re in trouble.”

See related story: No shelters open during storm

On this, the second “official” day of the 2016 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 until Nov. 30, there have already been two named storms this year. The last one, Bonnie, dwindled to a tropical depression before coming ashore this past weekend. Hurricane Alex was a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.

“People need to be prepared,” Harris said.

There are no plans for local shelters to open prior to or during a storm.

“That’s why it is important for individuals to make plans now,” Harris said. “Everybody can find a family member, co-worker, or a friend that they can go to for their safe place. It may not be exactly what they want, but they can be safe.”

Individuals also should be prepared with supplies to last for up to 48 hours.

“It would take us a minimum of 72 hours before we’d be able to get resources down here,” Harris said.

Because it has been so long since local residents dealt with days of delays to power, it’s the little things she worries won’t get handled in storm prep.

“Like making sure you have your prescription drugs with you,” she said. “If you know a storm is threatening, check your supplies of things you must have, but may not be able to get.”

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will most likely be near-normal, but reminded residents who might be affected by storms that “normal” means more than in recent years.

NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

El Niño is dissipating and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent chance that La Niña — which favors more hurricane activity — will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October.

However, current model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong La Niña and its impacts will be.

NOAA will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.