Resident beware, hurricane season is here

June 1, 2016

A new month, and with it comes this year’s hurricane season, which is expected to last until November 30.

Despite the official season not starting till June 1, it had a start earlier this year with Hurricane Alex, a rare January hurricane that struck. Speaking at a recent Regional Joint Information Center, National Weather Service meteorologist Melissa Huffman briefed the emergency managers and communications staff of Harris County and various other cities, private and non-profit companies in attendance.

“Several years have passed since the last hurricane/ major hurricane impacted the Upper Texas Coast, “said Huffman. “It has been 33 years since Alicia, the last major hurricane landfall in Southeast Texas in 1983. And eight years since the last hurricane landfall in Southeast Texas; remember Ike in 2008?”

Huffman added that historically, chances for storms diminish in October as the cooler weather makes its appearance.

Meteorologists study the historical data to predict hurricane season activity each year. Additionally, they use to factors called Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

AMO corresponds to ocean current that is thought to affect the sea surface temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean. ENSO, on the other hand, is the variation in winds and sea surface temperatures over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean.

The ENSO warming phase is known as El Niño and the cooling phase as La Niña.

Huffman said that the consensus of most studying hurricanes is for a near or slightly above normal season overall in the Atlantic for 2016.

Colorado State University is a leader in hurricane studies and publishes their predictions for the season each year. Their predictions are as follows:

  • 12 named storms of which 5 will become hurricanes
  • Five hurricanes of which two will become major hurricanes.

In an average season, there are 11 named tropical storms, 6 which strengthen to hurricanes, 2 of which further strengthen to major category.

Wind speeds determine how a storm is classified: named tropical storms (39-73 mph), hurricanes (74+ mph), and major hurricanes (category 3-5 at 111+ mph).

Now that hurricane season is here, preparedness can go a long way.