With hurricane season beginning June 1st and riding out until November 30th, it is never too soon to get prepared. For those who have become accustomed to weathering storms, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of preparing for this dangerous season.
Experts predict that this 2020 season will bring 16 named storms, 8 of which will become hurricanes. Half of those hurricanes are predicted to be major hurricanes, categories 3, 4 or 5. There is 69% chance that 1 of those major hurricanes with make landfall along the US coastline. To put this into perspective, the average of prior years are 12 named storms and 6 hurricanes.
The sea surface temperature is expected to be “well-above normal”, which is a key ingredient in fueling hurricanes.
Storms are difficult to predict, and the predictions are often off. So, while these numbers may hold small value- let us explain the importance with a few examples from the past.
The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, this was the season of Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.
And may we never forget about 2004. Although it was predicted that the storm season would have above-average activity, the severity of damage was unpredictable. Hurricane Charley was the first of 4 in a six week period. This category 4 hurricane left Florida cities destroyed and 15 total fatalities in its wake. After Charley came Hurricane Frances. As a cat 4 storm, Frances created 23 spin-off destructive tornadoes causing damage and 29 fatalities. Next was Hurricane Ivan, a large, long-lived category 5 hurricane affected the US and several other countries with total of 123 fatalities. Closing out the season, cat 3 Hurricane Jeanne pummeled several states with 3,035 deaths.
The 2005 hurricane season was also predicted to have above-average activity, but uncertainty loomed in the unknown as to just how “above average” the season would prove to be. The hurricane season of 2005 ended with a record 27 named storms, 14 hurricanes and 7 major hurricanes. Out of those 7 major hurricanes were 3 category 5’s. Hurricane Katrina, being the most destructive storm on record, causing an estimated $125 billion dollars in damage. Katrina devastated many states across the Gulf Coast of the United States and had a total fatality number of 1,833 lives. Hurricane Rita hit shortly after Katrina, recorded as the most intense tropical cyclone on record in the Gulf of Mexico and the 4th most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. The last category 5 hurricane of the season was Hurricane Wilma, making it the first time in history that 3 category 5’s had formed in one year. Wilma became the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Atlantic basin and she holds the title as the second-most intense tropical cyclone recorded in the Western Hemisphere to date.
Similarly to ‘04 and ‘05, 2017 hurricane season was also predicted to be above-average. But, again, it was unknown what the outcomes could be. After a few years of lower activity, this year was one of the worst on record. Hurricane Harvey was a category 4 hurricane that hit Texas and Louisiana, causing extreme flooding and 107 total fatalities. Hurricane Irma was the second major hurricane of this season and hit as a category 4 and a category 5. Most hurricanes have extremely unpredictable paths and can switch up on us at any moment. Irma was a prime and local example of that. Irma had a total of 134 fatalities. Last of this season was Hurricane Maria, another cat 5 hurricane with a devastating total fatality number of 3,057.
The storms can turn out less or more than predicted, but to be unprepared can be catastrophic. It can be easy to assume that the worst won’t happen, but there are too many examples in recorded history to not be ready for the unpredictable and powerful storms that may occur in this season.