Is This the Calm Before the Storm?

The silence is deafening. The Washington Post described this year’s hurricane season as “ominously quiet.”

The lack of hurricanes affecting North America so far this summer is baffling weather experts. As of this writing, there have been only a handful of named storms and two hurricanes, none of which has reached the U.S. yet. But could this be the calm before the storm… figuratively and literally?

Hurricane Danielle was expected to weaken in the North Atlantic, but Tropical Storm Earl had the potential to become a major hurricane. And Kay is anticipated to be the first hurricane in 25 years to come within 250 miles of California before perhaps hitting the state as a tropical storm that will add to weather woes there.

Today I want to look at whether the slow start to the hurricane season means we’re going to catch a break this year. Or whether we might see an onslaught of storms this month and next.

An article published by Forbes last month reiterated that both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the experts at Colorado State University predicted an above-average hurricane season for this year.

NOAA called for 14 to 21 named storms, including three to six major hurricanes. Category 3, 4 and 5 storms are considered major. They include sustained winds of 111 mph or higher. NOAA predicted a 65% chance of an above-average season.

The Colorado State weather folks predicted 18 named storms and four major hurricanes. Both organizations use factors such as El Nino (or in this year’s case, its absence), sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures and vertical wind shear to make their predictions. 

Late Starts Are Not Uncommon 

What does this mean for the rest of September and October? Not even NOAA owns a crystal ball. But if predictions for this year’s hurricane season end up being even close to accurate, we could be in for a couple of wild months.

Late starts for the hurricane season are not uncommon. In both 2002 and 2013, the first hurricane of the season occurred on September 11. And just four years ago there were no hurricanes in the Atlantic basin during August.

Even tropical storms have been known to cause considerable damage. Of course, Category 1 and 2 storms are even stronger.

Major hurricanes often result in catastrophic damage. They can lead to loss of life and widespread power outages. And they can leave residential areas uninhabitable for anywhere from a few days to several months.

Right Now Is the Hurricane Sweet Spot

Recent Category 5 hurricanes that reached the U.S. include Dorian in 2019 and Michael in 2018. If you were anywhere near either of them, you remember.

Category 4 hurricanes include Ida in 2021, as well as Eta, Delta and Laura in 2020. Category 3 storms include Zeta in 2020 and Humberto in 2019.

The Colorado State team says this year’s hurricane season is showing characteristics similar to the 1996, 2001, 2008, 2011, 2017 and 2021 seasons. Each had above-average hurricane activity.

Hurricane season normally peaks in the month of September. Mid-September to be more specific. In any given season, the average is 14 named storms, seven of which might be hurricanes. 

All It Takes Is One

One thing to keep in mind is that just because a hurricane season produces a fewer number of storms (as this one might) doesn’t mean it won’t be a rough season. Where storms are concerned, it only takes one big one.

In 1992, for example, there were only seven named storms. But one of them – the first one, as a matter of fact – was Hurricane Andrew.

This Category 5 storm took aim at south Florida and the National Hurricane Center headquarters with extremely powerful winds. Including a 163 mph gust.

Hurricane Dorian killed more than 80 people and caused over $5 billion in damages. Hurricane Michael led to more than 30 fatalities and over $25 billion in damages.  

Here’s How to Prepare

If you live in a hurricane zone, there are some things you can do to prepare. But even if you don’t, it’s always good to be ready. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 ended up affecting 24 of our 50 states.

Here’s what FEMA recommends: 

  • Prepare to evacuate. Have a “go-bag” with medication and clothes; stock emergency supplies such as a first-aid kit and flashlights; secure a place to stay; and research your local evacuation routes.
  • Safeguard your home. Reinforce and secure your walls, doors, roof and windows. Secure lightweight outdoor objects such as patio furniture and planters. If you can’t carry an item inside, secure it with an anchor.
  • Sign up for local alerts and warnings. Sign up for texts, calls and emails to warn you about a hurricane. You should have an NOAA weather radio.
  • Protect important documents. Use a waterproof container to store all financial documents, insurance cards, medical records, passports, birth certificates and other legal documents.
  • Have emergency contacts. It’s recommended to have an out-of-state emergency contact, as well as up-to-date contact information for work, school, doctors, non-emergency police, family members and doctors.

Being Ready = Peace of Mind 

FEMA also suggests following all instructions from authorities, including evacuations. Steer clear of flooded roads.

Where available, look into acquiring various types of insurance, including hurricane and flood insurance. Some states also offer wind insurance.

You may even be able to include hurricane insurance for your vehicles. It’s sometimes called “Other than Collision” insurance.

Hurricane season could ramp up any day and produce huge, destructive storms. But even if it doesn’t, isn’t it always better to be prepared? That’s what truly brings the calm before the storm.

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