Hurricane Season 2017!
Leading weather experts are revising their forecasts and are predicting a more active than average hurricane season in 2017.
IBM’s The Weather Co. now predicts 14 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. Warmer North Atlantic sea surface temperatures, which historically have been associated with more active seasons, have been recorded in recent weeks. This trend, coupled with uncertainty surrounding the development and magnitude of El Nino, could be revised upward again with the next update in June.
Although Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April, the official Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, 2017, and runs through November 30, 2017. And while Weather Channel meteorologists point out there is no strong correlation between the number of hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season, it is always prudent to remain vigilant and be prepared.
If a hurricane is approaching, tune into NOAA weather radio or TV for information. Secure windows and outdoor objects. If instructed, turn off utilities and propane tanks. If unable to evacuate, stay indoors and away from windows and glass doors; ideally stay in an interior room or closet. If you’re in a high-rise building, move to the lowest level possible – winds are stronger at higher elevations. Avoid elevators as they will not operate if power goes out due to the storm.
After the Storm is Over; stay tuned to radio or TV news for updates. If you evacuated, don’t return home until local officials say it is safe. Carefully walk around your home or business to look for damage or loose power lines. Take photos of any damage you find for use later with an insurance claim. If driving, avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges; watch for fallen trees, electrical wires, and weakened roads and bridges.
WATCHES VS. WARNINGS
Tropical Storm Watch: an announcement that tropical storm conditions are possible within the specified area
Hurricane Watch: an announcement that hurricane conditions are possible within the specified area
Because outside preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
Tropical Storm Warning: an announcement that tropical storm conditions are expected within the specified area
Hurricane Warning: an announcement that hurricane conditions are expected within the specified area
Because outside preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, warnings are issues 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.
HURRICANE CATEGORIES EXPLAINED
The lowest hurricane level, maximum sustained winds are between 74-95 mph. Still considered dangerous but typically no substantial damage to structures other than unanchored mobile homes.
Maximum sustained winds between 96-110 mph. Roof and siding damage can occur; shallowly rooted trees can be snapped or uprooted. Some damage to windows, doors, and roofing materials, but no major destruction other than to exposed mobile homes. Flooding can be expected in low-lying areas.
Maximum sustained winds of 111-129 mph, first level of major hurricane status. Large trees can be blown down; well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage, mobile homes can be destroyed. Extensive flooding can occur inland and may destroy smaller structures. Superstorm Sandy was a memorable category 3 hurricane in 2012. It was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 season.
Maximum sustained winds of 130-156 mph; extensive damage to roofs, windows, and doors, with complete failure of roofs on many smaller residences (mobile homes completely destroyed). Terrain may be flooded far inland. Joaquin was a category 4 hurricane in 2015 with 155 mph winds.
Rare but the most severe, they generate winds of 157 mph or higher and cause catastrophic damage; buildings can be completely destroyed. Flooding can cause major damage even very far inland. Memorable category 5 hurricanes include Andrew (165 mph in 1992), Katrina (175 mph winds in 2005) and Matthew (165 mph winds in 2016).
Frequently asked Questions:
Do I need to open my windows when a hurricane approaches?
That’s a question people ask every hurricane season. The answer is a resounding no. It is a myth that opening windows will help equalize pressure in your house when a hurricane approaches.
Your windows should be boarded up with plywood or shutters. Leaving your windows open will just bring a lot of rain into your house and flying debris could fly into your home, too. Don’t waste time taping your windows either. It won’t help prevent hurricane damage. It’s just another myth.
What is a tropical depression? What is a tropical storm?
Both are tropical cyclones. A tropical depression has winds up to 38 mph.
A tropical storm has wind speeds of 39 to 73 mph. Both have a center and a closed wind circulation.
What does an average hurricane season mean?
An average hurricane season brings 10.6 tropical storms. Six of those become hurricanes and two become major hurricanes, meaning category 3 or greater.
The average is based on data from 1968 to 2003. Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30, although storms can form outside this time period.
Why have there been so many more storms recently?
The right atmospheric and oceanic conditions are in place for hurricanes to form. The sea-surface temperatures are above normal in the region of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean where most hurricanes form.
Hurricanes need water temperatures of at least 80 degrees, which can typically be found in these areas. In fact, water temperatures in the mid to upper 80s have been occurring.
There is also low wind shear. When the wind shear is high, it can prevent storms from forming or prevent hurricanes from strengthening. The easterly winds from Africa are also favorable, allowing tropical storms and hurricanes to track great distances from east to west across the Atlantic.
Researchers have also identified cycles for hurricanes and say we are now in one of the decades in which above-normal activity should be expected.
Does El Niño affect hurricanes?
It can. In years with an El Niño, there are typically fewer tropical storms and hurricanes because vertical shear increases during El Niño years. The vertical shear can prevent tropical cyclones from forming and can prevent storms from intensifying.
El Niño is a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean waters, which usually occurs every three to seven years and affects weather patterns around the world.
La Niña is the opposite of El Niño and is characterized by cooler than normal ocean waters in the tropical Pacific. In years with La Niña, researchers have found that there is an increased number of hurricanes and an increased chance that the United States and Caribbean will experience hurricanes.
Why are hurricanes named?
A tropical cyclone is given a name when it becomes a tropical storm. It’s much easier to remember the name of a storm than try to track it by using latitude and longitude. It also helps prevent confusion when there is more than one tropical storm or hurricane occurring at the same time.
In 1953, the U.S. Weather Bureau began assigning women’s names to tropical storms. In 1979, men’s names were included on the list. The names are in alphabetical order, excluding the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z.
Today, the list includes names of English, Spanish and French origin because these languages are most commonly used by the countries in the Atlantic Basin. There are six lists of names. Each list is used in rotation every six years.