Pattern, time of year, suggest potential for development off SE coast

Water vapor satellite image showing area of disturbed weather well off the Southeast coast

Water vapor satellite image showing area of disturbed weather well off the Southeast coast

As we approach the start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, we already have something to talk about. Let me say from the start: it does not look like a big deal, so there’s that. However, the overall pattern favors development off the Southeast coast and since it is getting closer to June 1, why not?

The NHC has outlined an area of interest between Bermuda and the Bahamas that is primarily the result of an old frontal boundary tangling up with an upper level piece of energy or trough. While this is not the classic way to get tropical development, it is still one of the ways we see it happen and as such, the computer models have been showing some development of this system for several days now. Development in to what exactly? That remains to be seen but so far, none of the models, nor does the overall look to things, suggest much more than a rain maker for where ever this ends up – likely the Southeast coast later this weekend.

Water temps in the region are only marginal for development though they do get warmer in the Gulf Stream closer to the coast. If this were August, I would be more concerned, it’s May so my level of concern is about a 1 out of 10 – mainly due to the potential for heavy rain and possible rough surf conditions along some of the beaches along the Southeast coast. Keep this in mind and just monitor the situation while you’re out and about over the long holiday weekend.

Beyond that, things are quiet elsewhere in the Atlantic and the same holds true for the east Pacific. I’ll post another update here tomorrow morning.

M. Sudduth 8:40 AM ET May 25

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The consequence of luck

The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida - hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005. Not a single hurricane anywhere in Florida since...

The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida – hurricane Wilma, October 24, 2005. Not a single hurricane anywhere in Florida since…

October 24, 2005 – hurricane Wilma makes landfall in southwest Florida as a category three, weakening to a two before exiting the coast near Jupiter.

Wilma caused the single largest power outage in the history of Florida. Despite the rash of previous violent hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita just months before, scores of people went unprepared to deal with Wilma and lined up to receive ice and basic needs for weeks after.

That was the last time that a hurricane, any hurricane of any intensity, made landfall in Florida. It was also the last time that a category three (major) hurricane struck the United States.

Since that time, 66 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Basin and none have managed to make it to Florida. Yet, over 2 million people have moved to the Sunshine State since that fateful day in late October, 2005. (These stats from Dr. Phil Klotzbach via his recent Twitter posts – thanks Phil)

I think it is safe to say that Florida in particular and the United States as whole has been remarkably lucky considering what many believed to be the new normal post 2004-2005.

Those who said that could not have been more wrong if they tried.

The hurricane landfall drought for Florida is stunning. The major hurricane landfall drought for the United States just makes it even more so, almost to the point of absurdity. While it may be novel to discuss and remark over the fact that so many people have now gone a quarter of a generation with a grand total of ZERO hurricane experience, it comes with a price. I call it simply “the consequence of luck”.

I liken this theory to a bad driver who constantly speeds and drives aggressively without any consequences – no bad luck as it were. He never gets caught and keeps doing it until one day it all catches up and the worst happens. That driver suffered from stupidity combined with a learned behavior that taught him this equation: good luck while doing bad things = more bad things being done until the good luck ends. The analogy can be applied to anything really that has a negative outcome where luck is involved. Someone who embezzles money keeps doing it until they get caught which is another way of saying that their good luck of not getting caught helped to ensure that one day, they would in fact face the music. It goes on and on and I think the principle applies very well to our hurricane problem.

For ten years coastal residents (inland too) have enjoyed mostly hurricane-free living. Now I realize more than most that yes we have had hurricanes such as Ike, Gustav, Sandy, Isaac and so on. All of those matter for the people they affected. But on the grand scale, we have seen nothing like Katrina for 10 years. That is a good thing, no doubt about it. However, I ask this question: when does the string of good luck become a problem in terms of getting people to act and do their part to be hurricane prepared? During this time of no cat-3+ hurricane landfalls, millions of people have moved to the coast. Have hurricane plans been updated to take this in to account? How many coastal counties have new emergency management directors who have never experienced what a hurricane, let alone a cat-3+, can do? The list of questions could be lengthy if I had the time to think about all the possible bad outcomes to our string of good luck.

If we somehow knew with 100% certainty that hurricanes were a thing of the past, then this would be my farewell blog. Instead, it is my wake up call to remind you of how bad things can get. It’s not hype nor fear mongering – it’s a warning from someone who knows first-hand how miserable life is during and especially after a hurricane, particularly an intense one.

The NHC and local NWS offices are putting forth a tremendous effort to promote hurricane preparedness. Social media with the #hurricanestrong theme is abuzz with tips, ideas, risk assessment links and so on. Does anyone care anymore? I know some do but is it enough? How many people have become so relaxed or worse yet, know nothing about their risk, to pay attention?

I worry about this as we approach yet another hurricane season. The distractions in our daily lives are more than most of us can process. There is so much noise out there that the voice of reason is often muted and lost.

I fear that too many people are apathetic to the hurricane risk and have forgotten what it looks like (and feels like) when people stand in 95 degree heat waiting for ice and water. Forgotten? Heck, it hasn’t happened in so long that I believe it will come as a major shock to our collective souls once it happens again. It will seem worse than it actually is. Why? Because we’ve been lured by Lady Luck in to believing that every hurricane is going to miss or won’t turn out as bad as “they” say.

I am only going to say this one time: you have no idea what you’re dealing with if you think you know hurricanes.

It’s great to be lucky; it’s rewarded many people over the ages. Like time, luck runs out sooner or later and the two are more closely connected than you think.

Do yourself and the rest of us a favor if you live in a hurricane prone region of the United States or anywhere that tropical cyclones can impact: know the risks, know your vulnerability to those risks, make a plan and carry it out when time comes. Or, just flip a coin and hope for the best. My vote is on being armed with knowledge then utilizing that knowledge to minimize the impact.

Hurricane season for the Atlantic begins on June 1. The season lasts for six months. HurricaneTrack.com will be on top of it every step of the way. It is my sincere hope that my 20 years of studying the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes when they affect land will help you to not suffer and become a front page story for Time or your local newspaper. If ever you have a question, no matter how lame you think it is, please ask via email or social media. I take it as a my responsibility to educate others considering that I have had the privilege of doing what I am most passionate about for my career. Be safe this season and don’t worry, most of my blog entries won’t be so full of angst. Sometimes you gotta hit people with a sledge hammer to get their attention :-)

M. Sudduth

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East Pacific hurricane season begins today

East Pacific area of interest well to the southwest of Mexico - it has only a 10% chance of developing further over the next few days.

East Pacific area of interest well to the southwest of Mexico – it has only a 10% chance of developing further over the next few days.

It is time for the east Pacific hurricane season to officially get underway. May 15 marks the beginning of the season for that part of the world and we typically expect to see 16 named storms form in the region.

Right now, the NHC has outlined an area of interest well to the south and west of Mexico but it has very little chance of developing further due to increasingly hostile upper level winds.

The season ahead should be at least as busy as the averages would suggest – perhaps slightly busier due to the residual effects of the fading El Nino. NOAA and the NHC will issue their seasonal outlook soon for the east Pacific and the Atlantic Basin.

I have produced a video discussion covering the start of the east Pacific season as well as some preparedness info since it is also National Hurricane Preparedness Week – you may watch it here:

I will regularly post blog updates and video discussions concerning the east Pacific throughout the season ahead. For now, things look quiet – have a great rest of your Sunday!

M. Sudduth 2:50 PM ET May 15

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Consensus growing for active hurricane season

We are now less than three weeks away from the start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season and already it looks to be a busy one. Before we jump to the “sky is falling” conclusion, let’s look at things objectively and put it in to some perspective that most can understand.

Subsurface anomaly chart showing the growing area of cooler than normal water mounting in the tropical Pacific

Subsurface anomaly chart showing the growing area of cooler than normal water mounting in the tropical Pacific

What we know is that the great El Nino of 2015/16 is almost certainly dying out. We can see this by looking at various data from a variety of sources. One of those is the subsurface anomaly chart that I have included here. Clearly the warm surface water is being eroded away with a vast expanse of cooler than normal water lurking across most of the tropical Pacific. This will very likely herald the arrival of La Nina conditions or an abnormal cooling of the Pacific along the equatorial region. In short, this is typically seen as a favorable sign for the development of Atlantic hurricanes. The sooner we see La Nina set in, and the stronger it is, the more influence it will have on enhancing the chances for Atlantic hurricane development once the season gets going.

In addition, we also know, again by looking at actual data, not computer model projections, that the Atlantic Basin is warming in the area between Africa and the Lesser Antilles. This is also called the MDR or Main Development Region. The irony here is that there were some indications in previous weeks that this region would actually cool abnormally; so far, it has done the opposite.

Check out the very latest NOAA/NESDIS SST anomaly map for the region. Water temps are running above normal across the entire MDR and in to the Caribbean Sea. This is a stark difference from what we saw last season although the MDR did warm some as the season progressed. Right now, the region is warmer than we have seen it since the 2013 season and this, coupled with the loss of the El Nino, should give another check mark in the column of enhanced hurricane Activity for the Atlantic.

Latest NOAA/NESDIS SST anomaly map showing a very warm tropical Atlantic

Latest NOAA/NESDIS SST anomaly map showing a very warm tropical Atlantic

Warm water alone does not make hurricanes. The atmosphere needs to cooperate as well with aspects such as moisture level and wind shear being take in to account. Right now, those parameters don’t matter too much since it’s just May. However, conditions do seem to be a little less dry in the mid levels of the atmosphere in parts of the tropical Atlantic which is yet another indication that things may be busier than we’ve seen for quite some time. Shear will drop as the summer approaches and the westerlies retreat to the north. Once we get to August, the beginning of prime time for the season, it looks like all systems go for a busy time ahead.

With all of this mounting evidence for a busy season, it comes as no surprise that several respected agencies are forecasting either an average season or slightly above average. So many different entities are making forecasts now that it’s hard to keep up. The trend however is what is interesting to me. All of them see a busier Atlantic than the past few seasons and that will seem very busy considering how relatively quiet things have been since 2012. We will get a new forecast from Dr. Phil Klotzbach and his team at CSU in early June. NOAA will release their seasonal outlook soon as well. I think it is safe to say that, at least for now, the scale has tipped in favor of the Atlantic.

None of this matters as far as who would be impacted. I need to make that very clear. Knowing that the general large scale environment favors more hurricanes is helpful, I think anyone would agree with that. You’d rather know than not, right? Just don’t get caught up in the headlines and lose sight of the fact that even a 40 mph tropical storm can ruin your entire life – or even end it. It’s all about the impact (hence why our app is called Hurricane Impact) and no forecast can tell you with any degree of certainty what impact you will face this season.

The bottom line here is that you’re going to hear a lot about the “busy hurricane season” coming up. What you won’t hear as much about is how you can process that information and make use of it. My advice is to use that info to beef up your knowledge of hurricanes and what to do if one comes your way. A busy season does not necessarily equate to one with many (or any) landfalls. It does up the chances but no one really knows by how much. That part of the equation comes down to timing and placement of the would-be hurricane within the Basin.

It’s almost time. We are ready and hope to help you to be as well.

I’ll have more here on the 15th when the east Pacific hurricane season begins.

 

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Hurricane season is coming – will you be ready?

Clearly the United States and surrounding nations within the Atlantic Basin have a hurricane problem.

Clearly the United States and surrounding nations within the Atlantic Basin have a hurricane problem.

The east Pacific hurricane season gets underway in less than two weeks. Then, it’s the Atlantic’s turn as the season begins on June 1.

Already, there have been several forecasts for the upcoming season (for the Atlantic Basin) that suggest things will be busier than we have seen in the past three years. I think it is safe to say that even an average season will seem quite busy compared to what we’ve experienced since 2013.

Let’s forget about how busy the season may or may not be for a moment and talk about preparedness. Preparedness doesn’t get the headlines that seasonal forecasts do. Preparedness is not exciting or news-making. Ironic, isn’t it? Why? Because the lack of preparedness makes for all kinds of fodder for news reports after a hurricane sweeps through.

What does preparedness mean anyway? What exactly are you supposed to prepare for? Those are good questions and for each and every one of us, preparedness means something different. Yet, collectively, the more people who are prepared on some level, the better off the community is as a whole.

In this blog, I’ll talk about three very basic things that you and your family (or business) can do to prepare for a hurricane – no matter how busy the season is. Bonus points: if you’re prepared for a hurricane, you’re prepared for just about anything else too.

The fist step is about as simple as it gets. You need to assess your vulnerability to the impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes. Will you have to evacuate at some point if storm surge threatens your physical address? If so, where will you go? This is something that you need to figure out yourself. Look it up online if you can. If answers are not easily found, phone or email your local emergency management office or planning agency. Tell them you wish to be hurricane prepared and need to know if you live in an evacuation zone. Knowing how susceptible you are to the impacts, especially storm surge, is essential to everything else coming together.

Next up, take a close look at your home or business and think about what it will take to put it all back together should a hurricane coming along and wreck everything. Are you covered for losses? Do you need and/or have flood insurance? Now is the time to deal with these pressing issues. Homeowners need to meet face to face if at all possible with their agent or at least have an in-depth email discussion about their coverage. Trust me when I tell you: you need to know what’s covered and what’s not and how much it will cost. Waiting until a hurricane is coming is a horrible idea and will add to the relentless stress.

Finally, have a hurricane talk with the family. I know is sounds cheesy but it will matter. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as the ole “birds and bees” talk – so do it. Gather around the dinner table and just bring up the notion of what the family will do in the event of a hurricane in your area. It’s something that needs to be talked about and with today’s demands on our schedules, now is the time to figure out who will be responsible for what and where everyone will meet and be safe during the storm. If you have pets, this is also the time to make plans for them. Families are busier than ever, a hurricane is about as disruptive of an event as you can imagine. Don’t ignore it – talk things over and make sure everyone knows their role.

These three ideas are just part of the overall concept of hurricane preparedness. Each of us has our own set of circumstances that must be dealt with. Considering all of the possible situations to juggle, it’s impossible to formulate a one-size-fits-all hurricane plan. Therefore, start somewhere.

I have witnessed the consequences of being unprepared numerous times in my career. There is so much emphasis placed on getting ready for the storm itself that it seems the grueling aftermath is often ignored. Take my advice and do something, anything, to help minimize the inevitable misery that follows after a hurricane has made landfall. You’ll be glad you did.

The National Hurricane Center has announced this year’s Hurricane Preparedness Week for May 15-21. For more information, be sure to visit the site here: Hurricane Preparedness Week info

M. Sudduth 10:40 AM May 3, 2016

 

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