The premature arrival of Tropical Storm Bonnie and the early stirrings of a possible tropical system in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is not a foreshadowing for a busy season, experts said Wednesday.
During an event at the National Hurricane Center in Miami for the first official day of the 2016 storm season, center director Rick Knabb said hurricane season doesn’t conform to man’s calendar and an active preseason isn’t setting a precedent.
“We’ve had past years completely devoid of any tropical stormss early and then we get hammered in August,” Knabb said. “The hurricane season is going to do what it’s going to do regardless of Bonnie and Alex.”
Bonnie was a short-lived tropical storm that formed up last week bringing flooding rains to the Carolinas over Memorial Day weekend. Hurricane Alex was a rare January storm that was more a product of the tail end of the 2015 season.
In 2012, two tropical storms occurred in May. That turned out to be a busy year with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes. But last year, just 11 named storms formed even though Tropical Storm Ana spun up in May.
The National Hurricane Center opened the doors to its Miami bunker, which is built to withstand Category 5-force winds, in an effort to raise awareness of the start of hurricane season.
It’s been more than a decade since Florida was hit by a hurricane.
Federal Emergency Management Administrator Craig Fugate said one of his biggest concerns is people don’t know whether they are in an evacuation zone.
“We’ve tried to tell you, but here’s what we face. We still run the risk of losing hundreds of lives because people don’t heed evacuation orders,” Fugate said. “Don’t go by hope, don’t go by experience, just go to higher ground.”
Fugate’s comments come as forecasters watch areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the central Caribbean for possible tropical development.
AccuWeather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said it’s too early to tell what is coming for sure, but a super moist environment and low wind shear could bump forecast thunderstorms up into a tropical system.
Robert Molleda, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, agreed the Gulf region is an area to watch.
“The details over the next few days are going to become clearer,” Molleda said. “Is it totally out of the question it could become something tropical; no.”