There are no guarantees when it comes to the weather. A long-range forecast may say one thing today, but by tomorrow, what was supposed to be a warm and sunny period can turn into a cool and cloudy one overnight. That's because meteorology is an inexact science.
With this in mind, nearly halfway through the hurricane season, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration says it's looking more likely than ever that storm development will be below normal between now and the end of November. In May, just before the season began on June 1, NOAA forecast a 70 percent chance that the season would produce fewer storms than what's typical. Generally speaking, six to 10 named storms develop each year, with at least two becoming hurricanes.
In its most recent update, NOAA says with 90 percent confidence that there will be between one and four hurricanes – its previous forecast called for three to six – and only one major hurricane. A major hurricane is classified as such when sustained winds reach at least 111 miles per hour, or a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, used by the National Hurricane Center to gauge hurricane strength.
Last major hurricane struck in 2005
A major hurricane hasn't made landfall in the United States since Hurricane Wilma did back in 2005. Since May, two tropical storms have hit the U.S. in Ana and Bill, the first affecting South Carolina and the second Texas in June.
Yet despite the NOAA's updated forecast, homeowners and renters shouldn't let their guard down.
"Tropical storms and hurricanes can and do strike the United States, even in below-normal seasons and during El Niño events," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster. "Regardless of our call for below-normal storm activity, people along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts should remain prepared and vigilant, especially now that the peak months of the hurricane season have started."
The best way to prepare for hurricane activity is during those moments when all is calm. The following bullet points can help you get ready for whatever Mother Nature churns up this summer:
- Restock your disaster supplies. A flashlight, replacement batteries, and a 72-hour supply of non-perishable food and water should be included
- Fill all gas canisters with fuel for generator or car if there's a long-term power outage
- Clean out gutters of leaves, dirt, and debris to prevent localized flooding
- Assemble emergency contact information, including emails as well as phone numbers
- Have a professional look at heating and cooling systems to see if they require servicing
- Go over an emergency evacuation strategy with family
- Consider investing in storm shutters to protect windows from shattering when heavy winds blow
- Clear out storage area so lawn furniture can be put away quickly if a hurricane is forecast
- Find out more about your community's hurricane response plan by contacting your local legislator