2013 Hurricane Season is Starting Slow; Prepare Anyway

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Hurricane Sandy's Path from the Caribbean to New York. Image by Cyclonebiskit

Hurricane Sandy’s Path from the Caribbean to New York. Image by Cyclonebiskit

Get prepared. We’re in the middle of hurricane season and they’re coming. NOAA said so. Well… they’re coming sometime. No, I know it has been pretty calm but… maybe they’ll surprise us in October like Sandy did.

In October of 2012 Sandy became the second deadliest in U.S. history, hitting the east coast including the barrier islands of Long Island. Some residents decided to ride it out, perhaps used to wrong forecasts. Anyone wishing to escape the winds, rain and deadly surge accompanying this re-energized nor’easter, however, had ample opportunity to do so.

Pressure to Accurately Predict and Forecast Hurricanes

More of the world’s population is locating along the coastal areas; in fact, 14 of the world’s 17 largest cities are located there. According to the Population Reference Bureau “about half of the world’s population live within 200 kilometers of a coastline (and) by 2025 that figure is likely to double.

This is upping the ante on the potential for storm-type disasters. As a consequence, the meteorological world is under intense pressure to accurately predict and forecast these more accurately termed tropical cyclones.

Climate Prediction Center's Analysis of Tropical Weather. Image by NOAA

Climate Prediction Center’s Analysis of Tropical Weather. Image by NOAA

Prediction and Forecast of Hurricanes

For the June-to-November 2013 hurricane season NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook predicted the following:

  • 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher); of which
  • 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher); including
  • 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

The predicting and forecasting of tropical cyclones, however, has its pitfalls. On September 14, well into the peak of the season which is mid-August through October, scientists were wondering where all the hurricanes had gone.

As reported by Dave Hennan of CNN, “forecasters warned that there would be at least six Atlantic hurricanes this season, but so far we’ve seen only one. It’s the first year in recent memory that every major hurricane forecast has busted after pointing to above normal activity.

One way to provide the probability of something happening is to observe and record patterns; the best and better answers coming from a longer record of reliable data to make trends stand out. To increase this record, as reported by Thomas Hayden, Christopher Landsea of the National Hurricane Center has been “analyzing hurricanes back to the mid-1800s, trying to gauge their intensity from accounts of storm surge and wind damage.” This type of historical analysis can help forecasters project potential damage from future storms.

Preparing For a Tropical Cyclone

If you live on a coast that has historically been prone to hurricanes, it’s National Preparedness Month, so it’s time to get prepared. Even if the forecasts are completely wrong, and we don’t get any hurricanes at all in 2013, this preparedness exercise is good practice for next year.  The Center for Disease Control suggests the following preparation measures:

  • Get supplies: According to the CDC, and common sense, you should make sure your home is stocked up on any supplies you might need during a time of emergency.
  • Make a plan: Learn about your community’s emergency plans, warning signals, and evacuation routes – and familiarize yourself and your family with locations of emergency shelters. Don’t forget to locate and secure your important papers, and inform local authorities about any special needs such as health situations which would require quick evacuation in the event of a loss of power.

Whether you go all-out in preparation for the next hurricane, this season or the next, or just stock up on the bare minimum of food, water and medication, don’t forget to be prepared. Hurricanes can be devastating.

Resources

CDC. Emergency Preparedness and Response: Hurricanes. (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

Environment Canada. How and Where Hurricanes Form. (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

Hayden, Thomas. Hurricanes- Super Storms. (2006). Accessed September 23, 2013.

Hennan, Dave. Where Have All the Hurricanes Gone? (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

NOAA. Hurricane Preparedness-Hazards. (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

PRB. Ripple Effects: Population and Coastal Regions. (2003). Accessed September 23, 2013.

Samost, Aubrey. Predicting Hurricanes. (2006). Accessed September 23, 2013.

SSEC. Hurricane Monitoring in 2013: Improving the Tools and Our Understanding. (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

USGS. Start With Science to Address  Vulnerable Coastal Communities. (2013). Accessed September 23, 2013.

U.S. Navy. Joint Typhoon Warning Center. Accessed September 23, 2013.

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