Storm concern off mid-Atlantic as system near Yucatan clings to life

Update 8 a.m.: A tropical wave over Honduras and Nicaragua is still hanging on with a 10 percent chance of tropical development as of 8 a.m. this morning.

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National Hurricane Center forecasters said if the wave starts to form into something more, it will be a slow evolution as it moves over land and into the Bay of Campeche over the next several days.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

But another system off the coast of the mid-Atlantic has AccuWeather forecasters on alert for possible tropical development and big waves along the east coast.

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The system is expected to stall for a time near the coast, sending rough surf east.

The National Hurricane Center has not acknowledged this system in its tropical weather forecasts as having the potential to become something bigger.

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AccuWeather said even though the storm could develop tropical characteristics, it will not occur immediately and may attain these conditions for only a short period of time.

“The storm should strengthen enough to create winds of 40-50 mph with gusts over 60 mph,” said Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather. “These stronger winds will be mainly over the open waters of the western Atlantic just offshore of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York this weekend and just off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island from Sunday night through Monday night.”

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Update 9 p.m.: The chance that a tropical storm will develop over the next five days remained at 10 percent as of the 8 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters said a tropical wave over eastern Honduras and eastern Nicaragua is unlikely to develop.

Update 2 p.m.: The chance that a tropical system will develop over the next five days have dropped to 10 percent as of the 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters said a tropical wave near the Yucatan Peninsula will have little opportunity to become something more in the upcoming days because it will be moving over land.

There is no other tropical activity expected in the next five days.

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Previous story: The National Hurricane Center is watching a tropical wave that is expected to cross the Yucatan Peninsula late this week into an area favorable for tropical development.

As of 8 a.m. Wednesday forecasters said the system had a 20 percent chance of developing over the next five days.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

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If a broad area of low pressure forms as the disturbance emerges over the Bay of Campeche or southwestern Gulf of Mexico, it will hit warmer waters in a low area of lower wind shear, which can promote development.

But GFS models also show it as an area with low relative humidity, which hurts development.

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There’s not much to see on satellite images at this point.

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Are you a hurricane expert? As season begins, test your knowledge

June 1 was the official beginning of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season but with some named storms already come and gone, it could be argued Mother Nature got a little bit of a head start.

Hurricane Alex formed in January. The next storm will be named Bonnie.
Hurricane Alex formed in January.

So are you a hurricane expert?

Read: Special tips and news for Palm Beach County residents on 2016 hurricane season. 

Test you knowledge with this simple quiz: (answer key at bottom)

1. What was the last hurricane to hit Florida and what category was it when it made landfall?

2. What kind of storm was Sandy when it hit the northeast in October 2012?

3. What causes the most deaths during and after a hurricane?

4. How many hurricane evacuation zones does Palm Beach County have?

5. What three storm names were removed from the rotating list of names after the 2015 hurricane season?

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6. Why are forecasters expecting a normal to slightly above normal hurricane season this year?

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7. How much drinking water should you have in your preparation kit?

8. What hurricane in the Atlantic and Pacific holds the title of most intense?

9. What was the most deadly hurricane in U.S. history?

10. What category was 2005’s Hurricane Katrina at landfall?

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Answers:

1. Hurricane Wilma was a Category  3 when it made landfall on the west coast of Florida Oct. 24, 2005.

The last one, Category 3 or higher, to hit the U.S. coast was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.
The last one, Category 3 or higher, to hit the U.S. coast was Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

2. Sandy, after  reaching Category 3 strength, weakened to a post-tropical low before making landfall northeast of Atlantic City on Oct. 29, 2012.

(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post) -- Bayville, New Jersey -- James Connelly, 70, standing where his deck use to be along side his home and his pool and boat in the background, surveys the damage after riding out Superstorm Sandy in his home at 287 Sandlewood Drive, Bayville, New Jersey on Friday. James rode out the storm in his home trying to save his boat and other belongings. His deck and pool was pulled from the ground ending up along side his home. James' boat was also thrown against his home. His wife Yvonne left the home to be with friends. The Connelly's also have a home in Jupiter, Fla. for the past 28 years.
(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post) — Bayville, New Jersey — James Connelly, 70, standing where his deck use to be along side his home and his pool and boat in the background, surveys the damage after riding out Superstorm Sandy in his home in Bayville, New Jersey on Friday.  The Connelly’s also have a home in Jupiter, Fla. for the past 28 years.

3. Storm surge, rain and surf, not wind, cause the most deaths during and after a hurricane. About 80 percent of deaths directly attributable to Atlantic tropical cyclones between 1963 and 2012 were water related.

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4. Palm Beach County has five evacuation zones.

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5. Joaquin, Patricia and Erika.

A home on Long Island destroyed by Hurricane Joaquin. Photo courtesy Pathfinders
A home on Long Island in the Bahamas destroyed by 2015’s Hurricane Joaquin. Photo courtesy Pathfinders

6. El Nino, which helps knock down Atlantic hurricanes, is on the way out, while La Nina, which is more storm-friendly has a 75 percent chance of emerging by fall.

7. You should have a gallon of drinking water per person, per day for one week.

8. Hurricane Patricia ended Hurricane Wilma’s reign as the most intense hurricane on record in October. Patricia, which reached wind speeds of more than 200 mph in the Pacific before hitting a rural area of Mexico, had a central pressure of 872 millibars. Wilma’s pressure was 882 millibars.

Hurricane Patricia's winds reached 215 mph, the strongest on record.
Hurricane Patricia’s winds reached 215 mph, the strongest on record.

9. The 1900 Great Galveston Hurricane killed 8,000 people.  Florida’s Okeechobee Hurricane in 1928 is ranked second, killing up to 3,000 people when a storm surge broke through a weak dike around Lake Okeechobee. (This is corrected from an earlier version that said the Okeechobee storm was the top killer)

Property in Belle Glade, on charlotte ave., lies in ruins after 1928 hurricane
Property in Belle Glade on Charlotte Avenue lies in ruins after 1928 hurricane

10. Hurricane Katrina had weakened to a Category 3 storm with peak winds of 125 mph at landfall.

Before Hurricane Katrina
Before Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina
After Hurricane Katrina

The catastrophic storms that broke Florida’s previous hurricane droughts

Florida is enjoying more than 10 years untouched by hurricane-force winds — an unprecedented era of climatological calm that has long surpassed previous storm-free stretches.

Hurricane Elena
Hurricane Elena

As of today, the start of the 2016 tropical cyclone season, the last hurricane to touch the Sunshine State was 3,873 days ago when hurricane Wilma bullied ashore near Cape Romano in October 2005.

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Hurricane experts mostly agree this will be a near-to-above average season as La Niña chances increase, but whether one of the storms will break Florida’s epic hurricane drought is unknown.

What is known is that previous drought-busters were doozies.

Florida’s prior record-long stretch of no hurricane days was six years — 2,191 days — beginning in 1979.

Editorial: ‘Hurricane amnesia’ biggest threat for residents.

Hurricane Elena ended that streak in August 1985, drifting close enough to Florida’s Gulf Coast for 92 mph winds to be felt in Pensacola and sending 10 feet of storm surge into Apalachicola, according to National Hurricane Center records.

In third place for the most extended break between storms was 1,778 days beginning in 1987.

The storm that ended that reprieve is infamous in the annals of hurricane history.

Find out what that storm was in the rest of the story here. 

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Tropical storm warning issued for South Carolina

Update 4:45 p.m. A tropical storm warning has been issued for the coast of South Carolina from the Savannah River northeast to the Little River Inlet.

A warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within 36 hours.

National Hurricane Center forecasters said the low pressure system they have been watching has formed into a tropical depression with sustained winds of 35 mph with gusts to 46 mph. A depression becomes a tropical storm when winds measure 39 mph.

The system, which is about 435 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C.,  is moving west northwest at 13 mph.

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Update 4:15 p.m. A tropical storm warning will be issued at 5 p.m. for the South Carolina coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In a special message form the hurricane center, forecasters said advisories will also begin for tropical depression two at 5 p.m.

U.S. Air Force hurricane hunters found maximum flight-level winds of 33 knots or about 38 mph, according to the mission’s vortex data message.

Update 3 p.m.: The National Hurricane Center said the low pressure system that is swirling 450 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., is still on track to become a tropical cyclone today or Saturday.

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Forcasters said watches or warnings could be issued this afternoon if the system is upgraded to a tropical depression or storm.

The center kept the 90 percent chance of formation that it issued this morning.

An Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter flight is investigating the system now to determine how well defined the circulation has become.

The next scheduled forecast is 8 p.m. unless advisories are issued before then.

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Previous story: The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances of tropical cyclone formation to 90 percent as a low pressure system becomes better organized between Bermuda and the Bahamas.

In a special tropical weather forecast issued this morning, hurricane center meteorologists said the system continues to show signs of development, including a better defined circulation.

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A sub-tropical or tropical storm could develop today or Saturday. Maximum surface wind speeds are 29 mph, according to a NOAA satellite analysis.

A U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter Aircraft is scheduled to investigate the system this afternoon to collect more detailed information about the storm.

Forecasters are cautioning that everyone along the coast between Georgia and the Carolinas should keep an eye on this system.

Will a hurricane be named after you this season? 

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If the system gains tropical-storm force winds of 39 mph, it would be named Bonnie.

While a few days ahead of schedule, early tropical development has some precedents.

Hurricanes have formed in every month but February. Last year, Tropical Storm Ana opened the 2015 hurricane season with a May 9 debut.

This year, Hurricane Alex formed Jan. 14, making it only the second January-born Atlantic hurricane on record.

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Tropical cyclones are unique in that they have warmer temperatures at their centers — so called “warm cores” — that are able to sustain the strength of the storm over long distances.

But they need warm ocean waters and low wind shear to prosper — ingredients AccuWeather forecasters say are there.

Ocean temperatures are at about 80 degrees with light winds that are expected to remain that way into next week.

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NOAA says near normal hurricane season with 10-16 named storms

Update 11 a.m.: NOAA is predicting a near normal hurricane season in the Atlantic with 10 to 16 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes.

Of the hurricanes, one to four are expected to be major storms of Category 3 or higher.

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

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NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said the demise of El Nino and switch to La Nina is one issue clouding this year’s forecast.

While El Nino is dying, it’s not certain how long it will last into the hurricane season or whether La Nina will rage during the height of the hurricane season, which begins in August. NOAA is predicting a 75 percent chance that La Nina will happen by the fall.

NOAA’s forecast is one of the most significant considering it has a month’s more data than those issued in April.

Sullivan sounded hesitant in announcing a near-normal season.

“Near normal may seem encouraging and relaxed, but the predicted level of activity compared to the past three years actually suggests we could be in for more activity than we’ve seen in previous years,” she said.

Last year there were 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Previous story: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will release its annual hurricane forecast for the 2016 season at 11:30 this morning.

At least five other groups have already weighed in. Here’s where the tally stands so far.

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Read: Have hurricane forecasts become overly specific? 

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National Hurricane Center, there’s no app for that

Improving communication on when and how a tropical cyclone will impact a community is a reoccurring theme at this year’s storm conferences, but the National Hurricane Center is missing a key tool to connect with today’s tech-savvy world.

There’s no app for that.

"NOAA weather radios should be as common in homes and public places as smoke detectors."
“NOAA weather radios should be as common in homes and public places as smoke detectors.”

The National Hurricane Center doesn’t have a downloadable smart phone app to track a storm’s progress or monitor hurricane forecast updates. Instead, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration steers people to buying a weather radio.

“That’s 1930s technology,” said Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization. “It’s something very few people have outside marine interests and farming communities. Not only do they not have a weather radio, they don’t have a radio at all.”

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here. 

Emergency managers from throughout Florida are meeting this week in Orlando at the 30th annual Governor’s Hurricane Conference. It follows the National Hurricane Conference, which was held in Orlando in March.

A handful of sessions this week are devoted to better communication with the public, including one dubbed “Hashtags, sharknadoes and catching a ride with a stranger – the role of pop culture in emergency management.” It promises to discuss how to use social media to educate the public.

“I’m no mystic, I don’t know where technology will go next, but if we can stay on the cutting edge of wherever it goes next we are saving lives, and there is nothing more important than that,” said Sobien, when discussing the lack of a federal hurricane app.

National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said as a government agency, the center cannot compete against the private sector and having its own app would violate that rule.

Last year, the National Weather Service began promoting a mobile program for local weather information that can be downloaded onto a smartphone and functions similar to an app, but officials are careful not to call it an app.

The South Florida Water Management District has been conducting "Hurricane Freddy" drills for many years.
The South Florida Water Management District has been conducting “Hurricane Freddy” drills for many years.

Unlike a traditional app that you can buy in the app store online, this requires a few steps. Once it’s downloaded though, it functions like a traditional app on a mobile device although it’s really a website – mobile.weather.gov.

Mike Hudson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said in an interview with The Palm Beach Post last year that one reason the taxpayer-funded agency doesn’t have an app is it wants to make best use of public dollars.

“There are a plethora of apps already out there so being a government agency and custodian of taxpayer dollars do we need to recreate that?” Hudson said. “This is a smart way to make sure we are available and not have to go and do a lot of duplicative work.”

Also, Hudson said maintaining an app can be a lot of work when new versions of phones are released.

“The bottom line is, with this, you can access our information from mobile devices, the information is there and you don’t know the difference between an app and this,” Hudson said.

Many traditional weather apps already use National Weather Service information, especially when alerts are issued for dangerous weather-related occurrences, like rip currents or flooding.

Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologists with the NWS in Miami, said one of the top questions people ask him is if the service has an app.

“They want to get the information straight from us,” Molleda said. “For people familiar with apps, this is kind of a workaround that makes sense to them.”

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Mobile graphic forecast from National Weather Service

But there’s no such workaround for the National Hurricane Center and it’s unclear if there will be one in the future.

Susan Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the National Weather Service, repeated Hudson’s assertion that they don’t have apps because the private weather industry already provides multiple products “tailored to the mobile community.”

The iTunes store has more than 200 items under its weather app category.

2015's Hurricane Joaquin, Oct. 1.
2015’s Hurricane Joaquin, Oct. 1.

“We also participate in the Wireless Emergency Alert program, which automatically pushes out hurricane warnings to cell phones in the warned area,” she said.

While apps may seem old school when compared to push alerts, Twitter or Instagram, they can still allow for easier sharing of accurate information, said Tom Kelleher, a professor and chairman of the Department of Advertising with University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications.

“Mobile media can be more interactive, localized and social, and all three of those attributes may be critical in spreading important information in a storm event,” Kelleher said. “Another potential benefit is user tracking, which may be helpful to public officials in emergency situations.”

In August, Florida Public Radio launched a free “Florida Storms” mobile phone app that includes tropical cyclone information. The app includes information from meteorologists at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications public radio station.

Hurricane Andrew aftermath
Hurricane Andrew aftermath

Partnering with public radio, or a private company, may be the best way to perfect a hurricane app, said Bryan Norcross, a hurricane expert with the Weather Channel who is concerned that the National Hurricane Center isn’t getting its information out.

Norcross walked South Florida through Hurricane Andrew in 1992, long before smart phones, but he still sees the value in mobile technology.

“I agree that the National Hurricane Center is quite often fractured by the time it gets to the public, and a direct connection like regular briefings from the center during significant threats would help,” he said. “But I still think the distribution platform would have to be private, as a practical and policy matter.”

 

 

Landmark hurricane project on back burner after decade with no storms

A landmark hurricane research project that improved forecasts by 20 percent in five years is facing more budget cuts as the federal government seeks to “slow the development” of the program after a decade with no major hurricane landfalls.

In its fiscal year 2017 budget request, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said it plans to reduce its investment in the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project, which was launched in response to the record storm seasons of 2004 and 2005.

Pensacola—Annette Burton, of Pensacola, feels the winds of Hurricane Ivan, as she visited Wayside Park to see the power of the storm. Staff photo by Greg Lovett
Pensacola—Annette Burton, of Pensacola, feels the winds of Hurricane Ivan, as she visited Wayside Park to see the power of the storm. Staff photo by Greg Lovett

The program was originally given $13 million annually beginning in 2009. That was cut to $4.8 million last year and is expected to be further reduced to $3.8 million as focus turns to a broader array of prediction products that will refine all hazardous weather forecasts, said NOAA spokesman David Miller.

A $2 million reduction has also been requested to forgo future research and development for computing capacity as NOAA “reduces its investment” in the project.

“As noted in our Congressional Justification language, we are proposing to refocus research-to-operations efforts from separate regional and application specific modeling and forecast improvements — such as hurricanes — to an integrated holistic approach,” Miller said. “The benefits gained will affect all forecast products, including hurricanes.”

Before the project, hurricane track forecasts improved on average only a few percent per year with intensity predictions improving a fraction of a percent.

Since 2010 when research began with the project, or HFIP, track and intensity forecasts improved an average of 5 percent per year.

The National Hurricane Center referred calls about HFIP cuts to the National Weather Service, which falls under NOAA.

But in past interviews with The Palm Beach Post, James Franklin, chief of the center’s hurricane specialists unit, stressed the importance of the project and said cuts would negatively affect improvements.

“You go 30 years and no one wants to spend money on hurricane prediction and then you have all the 2004 and 2005 storms,” Franklin said last year in an interview for a story about forecast changes since Hurricane Katrina. “It would be a shame for the progress we are starting to make to be cut back and slow.”

Read the rest of this exclusive story in The Palm Beach Post. 

PUNTA GORDA - Damage from hurricane Charley in the Windmill mobile home community. Staff photo by Richard Graulich
PUNTA GORDA – Damage from hurricane Charley in the Windmill mobile home community. Staff photo by Richard Graulich

2016 hurricane season to have 13 named storms, forecast says

Update 3 p.m.: 

The Atlantic Ocean is expected to brew up a near average number of tropical cyclones during the 2016 hurricane season, and experts Thursday cautioned that current climate conditions resemble those present in 1992 when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck.

In a much anticipated hurricane forecast, Colorado State University researchers issued their early predictions for the season that begins June 1, calling for a total of 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

Storm 2016: focus on preparation not the cone.

The baker’s dozen of storms includes January’s Hurricane Alex, which was unremarkable except for its untimely appearance during winter.

Also included in Thursday’s analysis is a 50 percent probability that a severe hurricane will make a U.S. landfall, just below the historical average. The chances for a major hurricane hitting the Atlantic coast of Florida are 30 percent, also just skirting the historical average of 31 percent.

“It only takes one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with Colorado State University’s department of atmospheric sciences and lead author of the forecast.

Klotzbach took over as lead author of the report from hurricane expert William Gray in 2006.

Thursday’s forecast is notable in that it is the first time since 2013 where the season was not forecast to be below average. Seasonal averages include 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

See 2016 hurricane names here.

As recently as March, Klotzbach was predicting slightly fewer than normal storms, based partly on a frigid blob of water in the far north Atlantic that may limit storm formation off the coast of Africa if it drifts south.

“Especially in April, all of these forecasts are challenging,” Klotzbach said. “I would say the confidence level is on the lower end of the spectrum but for what we know I think it’s a reasonable forecast.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s 2016 hurricane forecast is expected to be released next month. The Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather put out their numbers last week, which called for a slightly above average season.

It has been more than 10 years since a hurricane hit Florida. The last was 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, which left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity, some for weeks.

Delray Beach resident Myra Goldman, who experienced the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, said she’s better prepared today, but hadn’t thought about the pending June 1 storm start date until told about Thursday’s forecast.

“I’m not nervous because we haven’t had anything since (2005),” Goldman said when stopped Thursday in downtown West Palm Beach. “I think people don’t take it seriously and they didn’t take it seriously until we had problems.”

The wildcard in this year’s hurricane forecast is El Nino, which came on strong last season to help knock down growing storms with strong westerly winds high in the atmosphere. But El Nino is expected to be gone by summer.

Klotzbach said global climate patterns this year are similar to six previous years that were moving out of strong El Nino patterns, including 1992.

While 1992 was a below average season for storms, Hurricane Andrew hit like a bomb in August, devastating suburban Miami. The other years include 1941, 1973, 1983, 1998 and 2003. Only 1998 and 2003 had above-average hurricane activity.

“Even in inactive seasons, you can certainly have landfalls,” Klotzbach said. “Florida has gone 10 years without a hurricane and that streak is going to end sometime.”

Last year, CSU’s April forecast called for seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane.

The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season ended with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Update 10 a.m.: Colorado State University is predicting 13 named storms during the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season with six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The 13 storms include Hurricane Alex, which formed in January.

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The forecast, which was released this morning at the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas, is near the median for storm activity between 1981 and 2010.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

CSU has forecast below average seasons for the past several years.

Storm 2016: Focus on preparation not cone. 

Unlike AccuWeather, which issued its forecast last week, Colorado State does not give numbers for how many storms will hit the U.S.

But, this morning’s report from CSU hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, does say the average probability for at least one major hurricane landfall along the U.S. coastline is 50 percent.

See 2016 hurricane storm names here. 

Klotzbach is lead author on the annual hurricane forecasts by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. He took over the task in 2006 from noted hurricane researcher William Gray.

This past year, the duo’s April hurricane forecast said there would be seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. The season ended in November with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“2016 will be a good test since we won’t have El Niño,” said Klotzbach, who believes the Atlantic might have entered a climatic pattern of fewer hurricanes. “It would definitely increase confidence that we are moving out of an active time for storms.”

But Klotzbach stressed at the National Hurricane Conference in March that the atmosphere doesn’t always react immediately to change, meaning an El Niño hangover might linger to help thwart storms.

Also, other factors, such as an area of low pressure he says has been a predominant factor over the East Coast have acted against storms. Low pressure turns in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing hurricanes away from the U.S. coast and to the north.

“I think the best example of this was 2010 when there were 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic and not one hit the U.S.,” Klotzbach said. “We were extraordinarily lucky that year.”

Previous story:

Colorado State University’s 2016 hurricane forecast for the Atlantic basin will be released today at 10 a.m. during the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas.

The report, whose main author was noted hurricane researcher William Gray, is now mostly handled by Gray’s colleague Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with CSU’s department of atmospheric sciences.

It’s been more than 10 years since a hurricane hit Florida. The last one was Wilma. 

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During the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando last month, Klotzbach said in an early prediction that he expected this season to be below average for storm activity. 

Today’s report will have specific numbers in terms of named storms and major hurricanes.

Last year, CSU’s early forecast called for seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. That was updated in August, increasing the number of named storms to eight with two hurricanes and one major hurricane.

The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season ended with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. 

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

 

 

AccuWeather predicts 3 storm landfalls in U.S. this hurricane season

Hurricane experts at the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather are predicting 14 named storms this hurricane season, with three making U.S. landfalls.

Eight of the storms are forecast to be hurricanes, four of which could be major hurricanes. A major hurricane is considered one that is Category 3 or stronger.

AccuWeather released its 2016 hurricane forecast this morning.

Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s lead hurricane forecaster, said one wildcard in this year’s forecast is a cold area of ocean in the northern Atlantic.

If the cooler water migrates southward across the eastern Atlantic and into the tropical cyclone breeding grounds, it will lower sea surface temperatures, limiting storm development.


“This area of colder water started to show up a few years ago and has become larger and more persistent during the past couple of years,” Kottlowski said. “The big question is whether we will go into a La Niña, which is what we’re anticipating right now.”

La Niña is characterized by less wind shear over the Atlantic, meaning more hurricanes could form.

A strong El Niño during the 2015 hurricane season helped protect the U.S. from storms by cutting them down before they could form.

“It’s possible we could flip flop from one extreme to the other, from below-normal seasons the past three years to an above-normal year in 2016,” Kottlowski said.

Palm Beach County residents aren’t prepared for biggest hurricane threat, expert says

A Category 4 hurricane dubbed the “double-header devil” drove into the side of Fort Lauderdale in 1947, pushing a surge of seawater over Palm Beach County 11 feet deep and dissolving miles of Ocean Boulevard.

The storm, which earned its nickname because it reportedly had two center eyes at one point, devastated the coast.

Since then, condominiums have spread like honeycome on the beach, and one hurricane researcher says Palm Beach County is more vulnerable to storm surge because residents haven’t experienced what a hurricane-driven ocean is capable of in more than 50 years.

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Hal Needham, who has a Ph.D in climatology from Louisiana State University, has spent eight years analyzing storm surge data as part of his U-Surge Project, which looks at the histories of storm surge events in coastal areas.

Last month, he posted his Palm Beach County assessment, choosing the area to analyze first over more flood-prone regions because he believes residents have a false sense of security when it comes to surge. The analysis, which focuses on West Palm Beach and Lake Worth, can be found at www.u-surge.net.

“From a psychological understanding, I think Palm Beach is really underestimating their storm surge vulnerability,” Needham said. “What happens if the 11-foot storm surge from 1947 repeats itself? It could happen this year.”

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While Florida hasn’t had a hurricane make landfall in a decade, Palm Beach County did get a glimpse of the power of storm surge during 2004’s Hurricane Frances. The storm, which made landfall as a Category 2 on Hutchinson Island, came with 6.3 feet of surge, according to Needham, and tore 240 feet off of the Lake Worth Pier.

“The idea is just to bring public awareness,” said Needham, who is the director of the Center for Coastal Heritage and Resiliency at the Galveston Historical Foundation. “Mississippi may be more physically vulnerable than Palm Beach, but if you talk to people there they say, yeah, we have a major problem with storm surge and flooding.”

A 2014 study published by the American Meteorological Society found 82 percent of deaths directly attributable to Atlantic tropical cyclones between 1963 and 2012 were caused by storm surge, rain or surf. Just 8 percent of hurricane-related deaths were wind-related.

“While people think of wind first and foremost, that’s not what is killing the most people,” said National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb during the 2016 National Hurricane Conference in Orlando.

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Yet, the same 2014 study, notes that a survey of coastal residents found “nearly three out of five respondents have never heard or read an estimate of the potential storm surge risk in their area.”

In Palm Beach County, the hurricane evacuation maps are built around storm surge threats over wind. The point emergency managers push is to “run from surge, hide from wind.”

“The biggest thing we do is try to disassociate the category of storm from the surge,” said Michael Resto, emergency management specialist with Palm Beach County’s Division of Emergency Management. “The category of storm as we know it has everything to do with wind and nothing to do with water.”

Consider Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Its strongest winds never came close to Palm Beach County, but it blew in powerful waves that breached Manalapan’s sea walls, pulled Lantana’s lifeguard station into the sea, sank a floating burger stand in the Intracoastal and undermined oceanfront pools.

According to Needham, Sandy’s storm surge was just 2.29 feet as measured at the Lake Worth Pier.

 Manalapan -- Erosion damages a home and a toppled sea wall caused by Hurricane Sandy at 1220 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan on Tuesday. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)
Manalapan — Erosion damages a home and a toppled sea wall caused by Hurricane Sandy at 1220 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan on Tuesday. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post)

A year later, Tropical Storm Isaac packed little punch, yet dumped as much as 18 inches of rain, leaving western communities under several feet of water for days.

“Long story short, Palm Beach County is vulnerable to inundation, but because of climatological factors and a bit of good luck, the area has avoided any substantial storm surges for more than 50 years,” Needham wrote in his U-Surge analysis. “We can only hope residents realize their luck will run out and salt water will once again inundate their coastal communities.”