National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a hurricane as “an intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.”
Be prepared – have a plan!
For assistance with making an emergency plan read more here »
. 1) FEMA Ready
. 2) American Red Cross Disaster and Safety Library
. 3) ReadyNC
. 4) Town Emergency Information
. 5) HBPOIN Hurricane Emergency Plan
THB – EVACUATION, CURFEW & VEHICLE DECALS
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If the Town declares a mandatory evacuation, PLEASE LEAVE
General Assembly during the 2012 Session, specifically authorizes both voluntary and mandatory evacuations, and increases the penalty for violating any local emergency restriction or prohibition from a Class 3 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Given the broad authority granted to the governor and city and county officials under the North Carolina Emergency Management Act (G.S. Chapter 166A) to take measures necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare during a disaster, it is reasonable to interpret the authority to “direct and compel” evacuations to mean ordering “mandatory” evacuations. Those who choose to not comply with official warnings to get out of harm’s way, or are unable to, should prepare themselves to be fully self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after the storm.
No matter what a storm outlook is for a given year,
vigilance and preparedness is urged.
Previously reported – October 2019
Atlantic Hurricane Scorecard:
After Nestor, Here’s How the 2019 Season Measures Up
At a Glance
- The number of named storms has been above the long-term average this season.
- Despite this, the season has been less active than several recent years.
- Hurricane season continues through Nov. 30.
The Atlantic hurricane season has less than six weeks remaining, but as this past weekend’s Tropical Storm Nestor shows, there is still life left in this season’s tropics. But how does this season compare to others? And what do other seasons show us about what’s possible in the last six weeks and beyond? Fourteen named storms have roamed the basin since the first storm, late May’s Subtropical Storm Andrea. Of those 14 named storms, five were hurricanes – Barry, Dorian, Humberto, Jerry and Lorenzo – and three were major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes – Dorian, Humberto and Lorenzo. The 30-year average for a full season is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The 14 named storms this season rank above average, but the five hurricanes are one below the 30-year average. The three major hurricanes are exactly average. In an average year, one additional hurricane forms (1966-2009 average) before the end of the season on Nov. 30, according to the National Hurricane Center, so there’s a chance the number of hurricanes could also end up exactly average. Any post-season activity in December would be counted in this year’s total, and any activity from January to May goes into the next year’s total. The last five seasons have all had a named storm before June 1. The most recent tropical storm to develop after Nov. 30 was Olga in 2007. NOAA’s definition of an above average hurricane season has already been met. It classifies a season as above average if Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) – which sums up all the named storms, how long they lasted and how strong they became – is greater than 120% of the median value (1981-2010) and two out of the following three are achieved: at least 13 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Although it is statistically above the long-term average, the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season has been slightly less active than the last several years when looking at the number of named storms. However, five of this year’s storms had directly impacted the mainland United States – Barry, Dorian, Imelda, Melissa and Nestor – which is comparable to the last few hurricane seasons.
When Does the Last Named Storm Form in a Typical Season?
Hurricane season officially runs through Nov. 30, but there is a decline in overall activity in the late part of the season. In the last five years, the date of the final named Atlantic storm of the season has ranged from as early as the last week of October, to as late as Thanksgiving week. A few seasons have ended exceptionally early – in late September or early October. As recently as 2006, the final named storm fizzled on Oct. 2. But recent and long-term history show we cannot let our guard down yet. The Atlantic has averaged one additional hurricane formation after Oct. 21 (1966-2009 average), according to the National Hurricane Center. Roughly one-fifth of all U.S. hurricane landfalls have occurred in October and November, so residents along the Gulf and East coasts need to remain prepared. On average, one hurricane forms every year in October, according to the National Hurricane Center. The most hurricanes to form in October was five in 2010. By October, the formation zones of tropical storms and hurricanes typically shift westward toward the western Caribbean Sea, eastern Gulf of Mexico and far western Atlantic Ocean. In what is known as the “Cabo Verde” area, development of African easterly waves fades.
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Previously reported –April 2020
AccuWeather’s 2020 Atlantic hurricane season forecast is out
About two months from now, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will officially begin, but AccuWeather meteorologists have already been hard at work examining the factors that could influence tropical activity this year. Forecasters are anticipating another busy year for the Atlantic Basin in 2020, on the heels of an active 2019 season. Led by Dan Kottlowksi, AccuWeather’s top hurricane expert, meteorologists this week released a 2020 Atlantic hurricane forecast. Kottlowksi’s team is calling for 14-18 tropical storms during this upcoming season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Of those storms, seven to nine are forecast to become hurricanes, and two to four are predicted to strengthen into major hurricanes. “It’s going to be an above-normal season,” Kottlowski said. “On a normal year, we have around 12 storms, six hurricanes and roughly three major hurricanes.” The 2019 season marked the fourth consecutive year of above-average activity in the basin and was tied with 1969 for the fourth most-active hurricane season on record. Featuring hurricanes Dorian, Lorenzo and Humberto as well as Tropical Storm Imelda, the 2019 season resulted in 18 storms overall and caused more than $11 billion in damage. And there’s reason to believe the 2020 season could be every bit as active. As part of the method for formulating this season’s predictions, forecasters have drawn comparisons to previous years with comparable weather conditions — also known as analog years. This year, AccuWeather meteorologists have looked closely at the years 1980 and 2005.
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CSU forecast for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season: active
Meteorologists with Colorado State University issued their annual Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook Thursday, suggesting 2020 will be an active year for tropical storms and hurricanes across the Atlantic Basin. An average year in the Atlantic Basin features 12 named tropical systems, including 6 hurricanes and 3 major (Cat. 3+) hurricanes. The 2020 CSU forecast for the Atlantic Basin suggests there will be 16 named tropical systems, including 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Seasonal tropical weather outlooks naturally elicit cynicism from some consumers, but such forecasts have shown some skill over time. CSU says potential contributors to Atlantic tropical cyclone activity include: the expectation of a weak or absent Pacific El Nino and much warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures across portions of the Atlantic Basin, like the Gulf of Mexico. What no seasonal tropical forecast can say with any provable, repeatable skill is what coastlines will be impacted by tropical activity. One might argue that the Bahamian and Southeast U.S. portions of the Atlantic Basin are, at least statistically, due for a break after Hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew, Irma, Florence, Michael, and Dorian have ravaged the region since 2015. A break is indeed worth hoping for, but you never know until the actual season arrives and the individual storms develop. The best course, in any year and with any forecast, is vigilance and preparedness. Atlantic Hurricane Season officially begins June 1.
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Hurricane amid pandemic: ‘Nightmare scenario’
For coastal communities like Wilmington, the June 1 start of hurricane season couldn’t come at a worse time
Emergency managers run drills on handling multiple catastrophes at once, such as a cyberattack during a tornado or a mass shooting amid a destructive flood. But most disaster plots don’t involve a months-long pandemic sapping resources globally from aid groups and governments while so much of the nation is shut down, self-isolating and unemployed. Yet this is where officials find themselves in the run-up to the 2020 hurricane season, which leading forecasts predict will be the fifth consecutive year of above-normal activity. A forecast released Thursday suggests we could see four major hurricanes develop. The U.S. may still be battling the coronavirus outbreak when hurricane season officially begins June 1, and waves of infections could follow during peak months for storms in late summer and early fall.
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Previously reported –May 2020
Atlantic Hurricane Season Is Less Than 6 Weeks Away,
But It Has Started Early 5 Straight Years
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is less than six weeks away, but the past five seasons have each gotten off to an early start. Officially, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. That time frame was selected to encompass 97% of all Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
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Hurricanes Could Be Slowing Down Due to Rising CO2 Levels,
And That’s Not a Good Thing
Scientists are warning that an increase in global warming could significantly slow down hurricanes, potentially leading to more destruction. While slowing down might sound like a good thing, the researchers are talking about the speed hurricanes progress, not wind speed. So, this slow down means more time to carve out a trail of destruction with both wind and rain when they hit land. The stark warning is based on meteorological data collected since 1950, as well as readings taken on more recent storms from the last few years, and forward projections created by computer modelling. Here the scientists are studying the ‘translational’ or forward motion of hurricanes, rather than the eye of the storm wind speeds. Because no matter how fast wind speeds are, the storm can still be slow moving.
Colorado State University, and Tropical Storm Risk (based out of the University College London) make their predictions for the upcoming hurricane season. This year, experts all agree that the conditions are right for above-average tropical storms and hurricanes. From 1981 — 2010, the average number of named storms in the Atlantic basin has been 13; last year there was a total of 18 named storms, four of which were category 3 or higher. This year The Weather Company is predicting 18 named storms and Colorado State University and Tropical Storm Risk are calling for 16. “The TSR (Tropical Storm Risk) April forecast update for North Atlantic hurricane activity in 2020 anticipates a season with likely above-norm activity. Based on current and projected climate signals, Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity is forecast to be 25% above the 1950-2019 long-term norm and 5-10% above the recent 2010-2019 10-year norm. The forecast spans the period from 1st June to 30th November 2020 and employs data through to the end of March t-align: justify;”>For example, in 2019, Hurricane Dorian produced gusts of 295 kilometers (183 miles) miles per hour, but advanced at just a handful of kilometers an hour. That meant more time to batter properties and people, and to ditch more rainfall across a smaller place. If future hurricanes continue to follow the Hurricane Dorian pattern, then they are likely to be just as destructive, or even more so.
Atlantic Hurricane Season starts in June, here’s what to expect
The official start to the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season is June 1 and it appears that this year has no intention of letting up as forecasters are predicting a higher-than-average number of storms this season. Each year several different forecasters including The Weather Company, Weather Company. The predicted active season can be attributed to warmer ocean temperatures as well as weak La Niña conditions. “El Niño/La Niña, the periodic warming/cooling of the equatorial eastern and central Pacific Ocean, can shift weather patterns over a period of months. Its status is always one factor that’s considered in hurricane season forecasting,” according to the Weather Company. The warmer ocean waters also play a role in how active a hurricane season will be, and water in the Atlantic is already heating up. “Much of the Atlantic’s waters are already warmer than average as of mid-April. The Gulf of Mexico is also several degrees above average, given recent heat and the lack of rain over the Southeast. Taken as a whole, Atlantic Basin sea-surface temperatures are currently at record-warm levels, “supporting a big season,” Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company said.
Hurricane Preparedness Week
Regardless of the prediction, living in a coastal region like the Cape Fear area means residents are at risk of being impacted by a hurricane, and being prepared is key.
This week is Hurricane Preparedness Week and the National Weather Service is offering tips for residents to prepare before any storms are even formed.
Some of these tips include:
- Know your zone: Do you live near the Gulf or Atlantic Coasts? Find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation area by contacting your local government/emergency management office or by checking the evacuation site website.
- Put together an emergency kit: Put together a basic emergency. Check emergency equipment, such as flashlights, generators and storm shutters.
- Write or review your family emergency plan: Before an emergency happens, sit down with your family or close friends and decide how you will get in contact with each other, where you will go, and what you will do in an emergency. Keep a copy of this plan in your emergency supplies kit or another safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster. Start at the ready.gov emergency plan webpage.
- Review your insurance policies: Review your insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your home and personal property.
- Understand NWS forecast products, especially the meaning of NWS watches and warnings.
- Preparation tips for your home from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes
- Preparation tips for those with Chronic Illnesses
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Hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones are becoming stronger, according to a new NOAA study
It is becoming increasingly evident that hurricanes, typhoons, and tropical cyclones worldwide are becoming stronger and potentially more deadly as the globe warms due to the climate crisis, according to a new study. The study, released on Monday by researchers at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), looked at nearly 40 years of satellite data of global storms. Researchers found that the probability of storms reaching major hurricane status (category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson scale with winds in excess of 110 mph or higher), increased decade after decade.
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Climate Change Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Researchers Find
An analysis of satellite imagery from the past four decades suggests that global warming has increased the chances of storms reaching Category 3 or higher.
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The strongest, most dangerous hurricanes are now far more likely because of climate change, study shows
Researchers find, for the first time, a statistically significant global trend, especially in the Atlantic
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Busy Atlantic hurricane season predicted for 2020
Multiple climate factors indicate above-normal activity is most likely
An above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected, according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. The outlook predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.
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Previously reported – June 2020
2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Fast Facts
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The areas covered include the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.
The National Weather Service defines a hurricane as a “tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.”
The 1-5 scale estimates potential property damage.
A Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane.
The National Hurricane Center advises preparedness:
- A hurricane watch indicates the possibility that a region could experience hurricane conditions within 48 hours.
- A hurricane warning indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 36 hours.
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How cities along the US coast are preparing for a hurricane season like no other
When disaster strikes, state emergency officials prepare for the worst-case scenarios. But most plans don’t include a hurricane season coinciding with a ravaging pandemic that drains resources and shows no signs of slowing down.
As hurricane season officially starts Monday, Florida and other states along the Atlantic coast are faced with the daunting reality and are rewriting nearly every aspect of their storm preparedness. With predictions of a busy hurricane season, officials are changing their pleas from remain indoors to combat coronavirus — to leave home and go to shelters when asked to evacuate. “The biggest challenge that we’re facing is that when the evacuation order comes, that the people won’t leave,” said Frank Rollason, director of Emergency Management at Miami-Dade County. “That they’ll think they’re better off taking their chances at home than they are in groups of people who may be Covid positive. If they are ordered to evacuate, they are safer in an evacuation center than in their home in an evacuation zone. “
Evacuations will be more complicated
By all indications, it’ll be a busy hurricane season. Two tropical storms — Arthur and Bertha — have already checked in this month even before the season officially started. Under normal circumstances, the decision to evacuate as a storm looms is hard enough. Emergency officials have to weigh the risks of letting people stay home versus urging hordes of them to get on the road to head to a shelter. This year, officials are aware coronavirus is a major concern, and have added more shelters, extra space, and other measures to reassure evacuees. “Those going to shelters will get their temperatures taken and will have to answer questions on whether they’ve had contact with anyone who has coronavirus or whether they’ve had symptoms,” Rollason said. At shelters, officials will ensure people are spread out. Some will be housed in complexes such as schools or hotels with low occupancy. The county has made arrangements with schools to have classes deep-cleaned and furniture removed to provide more room, he said. “Families that have been exposed to Covid-19 will be separated from others and put in a classroom as a unit,” Rollason said.
Hundreds of hotels will house evacuees
The state has also signed up 200 hotels to give counties options for vulnerable people such as seniors, those who have underlying conditions or people who may have coronavirus, said Jared Moskowitz, the Florida director of Emergency Management. “I need people to have the confidence that in the event they live in an evacuation zone and they’re under mandatory evacuation. And there’s a threat of a hurricane … they have the confidence to leave and get out of harm’s way. We can mitigate the effects of Covid-19. We cannot mitigate the effects of a hurricane,” he said. For those who will shelter in places other than hotels, cots will be spaced farther apart, and hand sanitizing stations placed throughout. Meals will be taken to families instead of self-service, and there will be screenings twice a day for symptoms, said Trevor Riggen, senior vice president for disaster cycle services at the American Red Cross.
Florida ordered nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install generators after a dozen people died when Hurricane Irma knocked out power at a nursing home in 2017. Nursing homes in areas at risk of flooding will work with the state to move residents to facilities out of the storm’s path, where social distancing will also be considered, officials said.
Getting supplies is also a concern
Coronavirus has sapped resources, leaving small towns fighting with bigger cities for coveted personal protective equipment. The items are not just for hospitals but also for volunteers. “Are they going to show up if there isn’t enough PPE for everybody? We can’t really depend on folks to bring their own,” said Colin Wellenkamp, the executive director of the Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative. Personal protective equipment is also crucial to ensure that the virus does not spread in areas already at-risk during hurricane season. In Florida, the Emergency Management director said they created a special stockpile for hurricane season by buying up PPE and putting it in reserve in a warehouse. The goal is to make sure there are 10 million masks on hand during hurricane season, Moskowitz said. Federal officials have urged people to make their own preparations as well. Those who will evacuate should carry items such as hand sanitizer, cleaning materials and face coverings. “Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency says. “Have enough food, water, and other supplies for every member of your family to last at least 72 hours. Consider what unique needs your family might have, such as supplies for pets or seniors and prescription medications.”
Shortage of volunteers expected this year
The Red Cross will provide a bulk of help at shelters, officials say. More than 90% of the Red Cross’ workforce is volunteer, and the organization has been conducting weekly surveys to gauge their willingness, Riggen said last month. The availability and safety of volunteers is especially a concern in small towns and cities that dot the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. For example, Clarksville, Missouri, one of those vulnerable cities on the Mississippi River, has around 500 residents. And one of its main streets is just feet from the river. With a permanent flood barrier out of financial reach, Clarksville officials work with FEMA, state, and local officials along with volunteers from all over the country to defend against floods by building an eight-foot rock wall topped with sand bags. But this year, it’s facing a volunteer shortage due to coronavirus. And even if they had enough, building a wall while keeping people six feet apart to avoid the spread of coronavirus is not realistic. With a shortage of volunteers, local officials should explore other options beyond bringing people in from the outside to provide relief, said Craig Fugate, a former FEMA director who oversaw the response to large disasters like Superstorm Sandy. With mass job losses because of the coronavirus, officials should look into paying residents in affected areas to help with the response, he said. “Moving a lot of volunteers may not be a smart idea, so I think communities need to look to their current furloughed employees as their emergency workforce,” Fugate said. “There’s a whole lot of people that just lost their jobs, and you can put them to work.”
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Hurricane season crashes into a pandemic
How will North Carolina fare if a hurricane and COVID-19 are raging at the same time?
Most coastal North Carolina residents are hurricane veterans, experts even, taught by that best of teachers — experience. But when it comes to dealing with a hurricane in the midst of a pandemic, we’re all rookies — even those leading the response. That is weighing heavy on the minds of emergency-response officials as a hurricane season like no other begins Monday, June 1, and runs to Nov. 30. (There already have been two named storms in the Atlantic, but meteorologists say that is not unusual and doesn’t in itself portend a busy season — although that’s what was forecast earlier this year.) In past hurricanes, vital relief has come from state and federal agencies and organizations — both private and public. Many of those groups remain overwhelmed with the COVD-19 response — both financially and operationally. Perhaps the biggest concern is how to provide evacuation shelters with social-distancing requirements in place. Of course, if a hurricane were to hit late in the season, those restrictions may already have been lifted. But with the coronavirus on its own unpredictable track and an early season storm possible, a double dose of emergencies can’t be ruled out. And as coastal residents think about tasks like boarding up windows or securing boats, those living inland know that they are not immune from tropical weather — storms such as Floyd (1999), Matthew (2016) and Florence (2018) all produced devastating and deadly flooding far from the coast. Meanwhile, the entire nation’s emergency-response system remains under the strain of dealing with a pandemic. Mike Sprayberry, N.C.’s director of emergency management, told The Atlantic that he hadn’t had a day off in nearly 40 days — and that was a week ago. If a coastal area were to be hit by a major hurricane, people and organizations from other states may not have the ability to help as they have in the past. There’s also concerns for after a storm, when large groups of volunteers have gathered in the past to help with recovery and long lines can form at sites distributing food and water. And what about groceries? Stores have beefed up staffing levels to deal with the unique demands of the pandemic, but the problem has more often been a lack of certain essential items. Can the already-often-bare toilet tissue, paper towel, disinfectant and meat aisles handle a hurricane? Then there’s another piece to the unpleasant possibility of a major hurricane strike. Although the financial toll from COVID-19 on local governments and agencies is still playing out, there’s no question that anticipated tax revenues are going to take a hit. Governments are not anticipating any outside funding to make up for lost revenues and emergency funding after hurricanes can come long after the storm is over. (New Hanover Schools, which had many facilities with structural damage and mold, recently received $3 million from the Federal emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to reimburse repair costs). After a hurricane, school systems and other government entities often have expensive repairs and other tasks — such as debris removal — that can’t wait on FEMA and other relief sources. They are often paid for out of fund balances — essentially their savings. So, the impact that COVID-19 revenue losses has on budgets could play a role in any hurricane response. Many places in North Carolina haven’t recovered from Hurricane Matthew, much less Florence. The idea of a Florence-type storm while COVID-19 is still raging is almost unimaginable. “That’s our nightmare scenario,” said Bill Saffo, mayor of Wilmington, which suffered massive damage from Florence and more than 1,000 people in emergency shelters. “We’ve been thinking about it from the time this all started,” Saffo said in April as the virus was gathering steam in North Carolina. “It would be the perfect storm for all of us.”
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Previously reported – August 2020
HURRICANE ISAIAS: Did North Carolina underestimate the storm?
Isaias, which strengthened to a hurricane just before making landfall late Monday, hit Brunswick County on a full moon at high tide
Holden Beach Mayor Alan Holden knew his evacuation order was not going to be popular. Like many North Carolina beach towns, summer renters are the lifeblood of the local economy. But as Tropical Storm — later Hurricane — Isaias spun off the Florida coast with a potential path that could bring it close to Southeastern North Carolina, Holden ordered all visitors out of his Brunswick County beach town by 7 p.m. Saturday. Holden Beach was one of only a few communities along the coast — one of the others being the neighboring town of Ocean Isle Beach — to order a mandatory evacuation of non-residents as Isaias approached the Tar Heel State. “Yep, a lot of heat,” the mayor, chuckling, said Wednesday morning about his order. “A lot of heat.” But no one is second guessing Holden’s decision now after Hurricane Isaias slammed into the Brunswick County coast on a full moon at near high tide, pummeling beaches and low-lying areas with powerful wind gusts and 5-foot storm surge that sent sand washing into streets and tossed boats around like rag dolls. Holden Beach didn’t escape unscathed, Holden said, with broken docks and rising waters in its canal systems. But it could have been potentially a lot worse if his island was full of vacationers who don’t know what to do in a hurricane situation. “Blame it on a lifetime of experience and a whole lot of luck,” said the mayor, whose family founded Holden Beach. “We lived real good this time, thank the Lord, but do feel for our neighbors in Ocean Isle Beach and Oak Island.”
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2020 Hurricane Season Off to a Record Fast Start
Weather experts predict that the year could have as many as 25 named tropical storms and hurricanes
With a record fast start to the Atlantic hurricane season, federal forecasters are now predicting that 2020 could have as many as 25 named tropical storms and hurricanes—a number that would put it just shy of the 28 named storms seen during the historically high 2005 season. There have already been a record nine named storms this season. In an average year, there might be two named storms by early August, with the ninth not forming until sometime in early October. “This season could be one of the more active in the historical record,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which put out an updated outlook Thursday. The agency is now predicting as many as 25 named storms—the most it has ever forecast for a hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Forecasters predicted a maximum of 21 hurricanes in 2005. Since 2010, the number of named storms and hurricanes in a season has fallen within NOAA’s forecasted range six times. Forecasters initially predicted as many as 19 storms this season but revised that outlook upward amid atmospheric conditions that forecasters say have become even more favorable to storm formation and intensification. Those conditions include warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker Atlantic trade winds, and wind patterns off Africa that more easily spin off storms. “These conditions are all typical evidence of an above normal and extremely active season,” Dr. Bell said.
Forecasters are now expecting as many as 11 named storms to become hurricanes this season, and three to six to become major hurricanes rated Category 3 or higher. An average hurricane season typically has about a dozen named storms, roughly half of which become hurricanes. Three typically have winds strong enough to be rated a major hurricane.
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Storm Isaias’s Most Damaging Winds Were on Its Right
Tropical storm left millions without power; its asymmetrical wind field helps explain why
When Isaias swept up the East Coast last week, it was far from the worst storm to batter the U.S. in recent years. But after making landfall in North Carolina, the tempest moved inland and darted up the Eastern Seaboard, allowing its most damaging winds to bash cities and towns lying between the hurricane’s eye and the country’s edge. “The majority of the wind field was to the right of the storm center,” said Brian McNoldy, a senior research associate at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “While this is typical to some degree, the asymmetry was very pronounced in Isaias.” After landfall, the storm—whose name is pronounced ees-sah-EE-ahs—slowed from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm with sustained winds ranging in speed from 39 miles an hour to 73 mph. But as the storm’s rotational winds slowed, its forward momentum increased, elevating its total wind speed. “When it was coming toward Florida, it was moving 8 miles per hour,” said Joel Cline, tropical program coordinator at the National Weather Service. “In North Carolina, it was moving 22 miles per hour.” On average, a hurricane’s forward speed is around 15 mph to 20 mph. But by the time Isaias was in the vicinity of New York City, he said, it was pushing forward at 40 mph. “Toward the end of their lives, they tend to speed up,” Mr. McNoldy said. According to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, which rates hurricanes on a scale of 1 to 5 based on sustained wind speed, a Category 1 storm, like Isaias, ranges from 74 mph to 95 mph. Category 2 ranges from 96 mph to 110 mph; Category 3 from 111 mph to 129 mph; Category 4 from 130 mph to 156 mph; and Category 5 from 157 mph on up. Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, was a Category 5 storm. As a rule of thumb, a hurricane’s expected damage rises by a factor of four for every category increase, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But a storm’s rotational speed is compounded by its forward momentum. In the Northern Hemisphere, where hurricanes spin counterclockwise, the strongest winds occur to the right of the eye, based on the direction the storm is moving. That’s because on the right, the rotational winds spin in the direction the storm is traveling, and pick up speed from that force. On the left, the rotational winds push in the opposite direction, causing a loss of speed. “If a storm is moving northwards at 10 miles per hour, and the wind’s rotational speed is 90 miles per hour, then to the east, the wind speed will be 100 miles per hour, and to the west, it will be 80 miles per hour,” said Steve Ackerman, director of the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. In Isaias’s case, when the National Hurricane Center recorded 70 mph winds in Maryland at 11 a.m. on Aug. 4, those were the storm’s fastest sustained winds at that point in time—but not everyone felt the same thrust. “People to the left of the track would not have experienced those winds,” Mr. McNoldy said. Storm surges also are worse on the right side of a hurricane and might be amplified by a full moon’s tidal effect. Isaias made landfall under a full moon, and about 50 miles away, Wilmington, N.C., experienced the highest storm surges it has ever recorded, with water levels reaching 4.19 feet over normal high tide, breaking the record set during Hurricane Florence in 2018. Overall, an estimated 3.6 million customers lost power during the storm, and for Consolidated Edison Inc., the utility that serves New York City, it was the largest number of outages since Hurricane Sandy—by then a superstorm—brutalized the Northeast in 2012. “We’re trying to get people to make less of the hurricane category,” Mr. Cline said, “and actually see more of what the potential impacts are.” As the storm watchers say, there’s more to the story than the category.
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3 North Carolina counties lead U.S. in hurricane impacts since 2010
Brunswick, Hyde and Dare counties each had 10 hurricane-based FEMA emergency declarations between 2010 and 2019
A new report quantifies what many North Carolina residents already know: They have faced a lot of hurricanes over the past decade — reinforced most recently by last week’s Hurricane Isaias. The report is by the ValuePenguin financial advice website. It states that from 2010 through 2019, Brunswick County on the southern North Carolina coast and Dare and Hyde counties along the state’s northeast coast each had 10 hurricane-based Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emergencies. Those three counties tied for first place nationally.
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Previously reported – October 2020
With two months left, the 2020 hurricane season has a chance to set the record for most named storms
This year’s Atlantic hurricane season is on the verge of becoming the most active since 2005. The year 2005, which brought us the retired names and memorable destruction of Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, ended up with the most number of named storms ever — 28. It was also the first time the normal list of storm names was exhausted, prompting the use of names beginning with letters from the Greek alphabet. The 2020 season has about two months left. So far this year, we’ve seen 25 named storms (the average for an entire season is 12), but roughly half as many hurricanes at eight and only two major storms (Category 3 or higher). We’re up to the name Gamma, so we need three more to reach the 2005 mark in Greek names. But numbers of storms aren’t everything. This year a record was set when four storms making landfall underwent the phenomenon known as rapid intensification. That happens when a storm’s maximum speed increases by 35 mph in a 24-hour period. Hanna was first, jumping from 45 to 80 mph maximum winds in 24 hours on July 25, prior to its landfall on Padre Island, Texas. In late August, as Laura was bearing down on the Louisiana coast, it’s maximum winds leaped from 65 mph to 110 mph from 5 a.m. August 25 to 5 a.m. August 26. It made landfall near Cameron, Louisiana, early on August 27. A few weeks later, Sally astounded weather-watchers everywhere when it only took 12 hours for the winds to rocket from 60 mph to 100 mph on September 14. Two days later, it came ashore in Gulf Shores, Alabama. On Saturday, Gamma made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula. While not quite a hurricane when doing so, it did intensify from a tropical depression with 35 mph winds Friday to 70 mph when it made landfall 24 hours later.
While September 2020 ended quietly for Atlantic tropical cyclones, it produced a record 10 named storms during the month (Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred, Alpha and Beta). This broke old Atlantic September record of 8 named storm formations. #hurricanepic.twitter.com/aOXbF70i4C
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) September 30, 2020
The month of September also produced a record 10 named storms: Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, Wilfred, Alpha and Beta. The old record was eight.
The season is not over yet
October is the third most active month of the Atlantic hurricane season, behind September (first) and August (second). During an average season, we see about two named storms in October and one in November. If this were a “normal” hurricane season, we would still likely have a few more storms possible through the end of November. But this year is not a “normal” season. It has been forecast for months to be very active. Back in August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated the hurricane season forecast and called for 19 to 25 named storms. Prior to this, the agency had never forecast up to 25 storms in a season. As of Saturday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) was tracking three other potential systems in the Atlantic. Two are located in the central Atlantic Ocean and look the least promising with only a 10-20% chance of intensifying over the next five days. The more impressive-looking tropical disturbance, currently located near Jamaica, has been given a 60% chance of development by the NHC. This system, referred to as Invest 92-L, could take aim at the very warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some long-range models are projecting it could land there by the middle of next week and, more importantly, intensify to hurricane strength. If it earns a name, next on the list is the Greek letter Delta. Obviously, there is lot of time between now and then so this system will have to be watched very carefully. However, unlike Gamma, whose northward motion is currently being stunted by a stationary front, Invest-92 could have fewer obstacles to clear to be added to this year’s very long list. While the Atlantic hurricane season has already been very active, it’s not over yet. Technically the season does not end until November 30, but some years storms have continued well after that.
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Major disaster declaration granted for 15 N.C. counties hit hard by Hurricane Isaias
The White House and FEMA have granted a major disaster declaration for 15 counties in North Carolina recovering from Hurricane Isaias. “This declaration from our federal partners will help us rebuild stronger and smarter, so our communities can recover from the damage done by Hurricane Isaias,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. The declaration covers Beaufort, Bertie, Brunswick, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Hertford, Hyde, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, and Pitt counties. According to the governor’s office, the declaration “provides federal reimbursement to county and state governments and some nonprofit organizations for much of the cost to respond to the storm and repair damaged infrastructure. It can also provide federal reimbursement for debris removal as well as search and rescue operations, hazardous material clean up, meals, generators, fuel and more.”
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Previously reported – November 2020
Subtropical Storm Theta Makes 2020 Busiest Hurricane Season On Record
A history-making storm is gaining momentum over the middle of the Atlantic. Monday, Subtropical Storm Theta became the 29th named storm of the year, surpassing the 28 storms of 2005 and making the 2020 hurricane season the busiest on record. The system is not expected to make landfall in the U.S.
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Theta Forms as Season’s 29th Named Storm, Breaking a Record
The arrival of Theta broke the annual record for the number of storms strong enough to be given names. That benchmark was set in 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
Subtropical Storm Theta became the 29th named storm of the tumultuous 2020 hurricane season on Monday night, breaking a record set in 2005. Government scientists had predicted an unusually busy hurricane season this year. But the number of named storms exceeded even the initial forecasts issued by the National Hurricane Center and forced the National Weather Service to resort to using the Greek alphabet after Tropical Storm Wilfred formed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean in September. The Weather Service had not done that since 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to have names. (The National Hurricane Center named 27 storms that year and later identified a 28th qualifying storm: a subtropical storm that formed briefly in October 2005 near the Azores, a remote archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.)
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- Tropical Storm Iota forms in Caribbean and will likely become a major hurricane
Iota is the 30th named storm of 2020, a new record
Tropical Storm Iota formed in the eastern Caribbean on Friday afternoon, set to become a powerful major hurricane and threaten areas of the western Caribbean still reeling from Hurricane Eta that hit just last week. Iota is the season’s 30th named storm, an unprecedented milestone that brings us deeper into uncharted territory. It comes days after Tropical Storm Theta formed and broke the record for the most named storms ever observed in a single Atlantic hurricane season.
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A hurricane season for the record books
Starting with the first storm, which struck two weeks before the official start of the Atlantic season on June 1, this year has now seen 30 named storms — 13 of them hurricanes — breaking a record set in 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to be named. This is only the second time — after 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — that meteorologists have exhausted the list of storm names in alphabetical order and moved on to the 24-letter Greek alphabet.