This year’s hurricane season should be normal or above normal, government forecasters said Thursday.
“We’re not expecting the season to be one of the most active on record,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. But, he said, “It’s time to start getting prepared.”
The agency’s forecasters predicted a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. Five to nine of those could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher, and one to four could develop into major hurricanes, which have winds of 111 mph or higher.
By comparison, an average hurricane season produces 12 named storms. Six of those typically become hurricanes and three develop into major hurricanes.
After the exceptionally destructive season last year, the prediction might seem like a reprieve of sorts. But a season with few storms can do tremendous damage if a single storm makes landfall.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 until Nov. 1 and peaks from mid-August through late October.
Last year, NOAA predicted a busy hurricane season that experts estimated would produce 11 to 17 named storms with as many as nine becoming hurricanes. That was uncannily close to the way the season turned out: There were 17 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes. Six of those were major hurricanes. Two major hurricanes struck the continental United States, breaking a 12-year drought of such storms.
The 2017 season unleashed such powerful storms that the World Meteorological Organization officially retired the names of four of them: Harvey, which did much damage in Texas; Irma, which struck the Caribbean and the southeastern United States; Maria, which struck Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and Nate, which hit Mississippi. (Unless they are retired, storm names are reused after six years.) Three lesser storms, Cindy, Emily and Phillipe, also struck the continental United States.
In 2016, NOAA forecast as many as 16 named storms; fifteen storms developed, including four major hurricanes.
While predictions are important in preparing for hurricane season, the figures can be deceptive. Harvey was just a tropical storm when it poured rain over Houston, but it caused record-breaking floods. Hurricane Ike in 2008, while a powerful storm in the Caribbean, was below the major hurricane threshold when it reached the coast of Texas; still, its surge devastated parts of the Texas Gulf Coast.