Thursday, July 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Conditions still ripe late in season for more powerful hurricanes

It's a message storm-weary residents don't want to hear: This active, record-breaking hurricane season is far from over.

After two back-to-back, catastrophic cyclones, with people in Florida and Houston just beginning to put their lives back together, it's tempting to figure Mother Nature will show some mercy, at least until next year.

Not so, forecasters say. The conditions that spawned hurricanes Irma and Harvey are firmly in place and will be for weeks.

"There's still a long way to go this season," said Gerry Bell, lead forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center. "That's what people need to hear because they need to make sure they stay prepared. There are going to be more storms, and that means more storms are going to threaten."

The hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, peaks in the months of August, September and October. Early September is the peak of the peak, but when conditions are ripe, there is more storm activity through October, Bell said.

Last month, Bell and his team updated their annual prediction for the 2017 Atlantic season to 14 to 19 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes. Of those, the Climate Prediction Center estimated, two would become major hurricanes.

With the formation of Hurricane Jose, currently swirling in the Atlantic Ocean southwest of Bermuda, this season has already created 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, three of them major.

Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project updated its Atlantic forecast for the last time in August, calling for 16 named storms and eight hurricanes, three of them major.

Just because this season has already reached the predicted number of major hurricanes doesn't mean there won't be more, said Phil Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University who helps put together the seasonal hurricane forecast.

In previous active seasons like 2004 and 2005, storms continued to form well into October, Klotzbach noted.

"If I could go back, I'd probably up the forecast a bit," he said. "The conditions have been so conducive, you don't just expect them to just turn off."

Those conditions extend from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.

For one, favorable winds coming off the west African coast strengthen cloud systems into tropical storms and hurricanes. Forecasters predicted that these winds would be stronger than average, and they have been, Bell said.

Another factor is wind shear, or changes in wind direction and speed at different levels of the atmosphere. Areas of low wind shear allows storm systems to turn clockwise from sea level to about 50,000 feet into the atmosphere, which helps keep storms intact and allows them to strengthen by drawing warm and moist air from the ocean.

In so-called El Niño years, when water temperatures in an area of the Pacific Ocean are higher than average, wind patterns are aligned in a way that increases wind shear over the Caribbean and Atlantic. This year, a lack of El Niño conditions helped storms like Irma and Harvey strengthen into the monsters they became, Bell said.

Those storms marked the first time two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in one year.

Generally, storms form in the Atlantic earlier in the season, as Irma did. By October, storms tend to emerge in the Caribbean.

"If you're going to get something nasty, especially for Florida, that's usually where it comes from," Klotzbach said.

Exhibit A, said Klotzbach: the infamous 1921 hurricane that devastated the Tampa Bay area. It formed in the Caribbean on Oct. 20, "shot the gap" between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula and curved into the Gulf of Mexico. The unnamed storm made landfall near Tarpon Springs as a Category 3 on the modern day Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

The tropical storm that would become Hurricane Wilma, the 2005 formation that caused widespread destruction when it made landfall in South Florida, formed in the Caribbean on Oct. 17 of that year.

For now, at least, there appears to be a lull in the tropics.

Hurricane Jose had weakened to a Category 1 storm and was expected to loop around on its own path before turning to the north. Forecasters said Tuesday that a landfall on the U.S. East Coast appeared unlikely.

But as Florida residents clean up after Irma and pray for the power to come back on, they also need to stay vigilant.

"Don't let your guard down," Bell said. "It's part of your responsibility of being a coastal resident to make sure you're prepared."

Contact Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.

Comments
Scattered afternoon showers to persist into the weekend across Tampa Bay

Scattered afternoon showers to persist into the weekend across Tampa Bay

A strong southwestern flow continues to drag scattered showers and thunderstorms from the Gulf. As the weekend approaches, folks around Tampa Bay can expect to see a familiar pattern: morning showers near the coast and, by the afternoon, stronger and...
Published: 07/19/18
Isolated thunderstorms to persists for rest of week across Tampa Bay

Isolated thunderstorms to persists for rest of week across Tampa Bay

The chance of rain is increasing for the second half of this week across Tampa Bay, starting Wednesday afternoon with the arrival of thunderstorms that could produce gusty winds and frequent downpours.A southwestern flow will dominate much of this we...
Published: 07/18/18
Thick humidity fuels sweltering conditions, increasing rain chances for Tampa Bay

Thick humidity fuels sweltering conditions, increasing rain chances for Tampa Bay

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to pick up throughout Tampa Bay on Tuesday afternoon, along with continued blistering sunshine and high humidity.An increased chance of rain, around 60 percent, will continue throughout the week. A hig...
Published: 07/17/18
Forecast: Dry start to work week, but rain chances will build across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Dry start to work week, but rain chances will build across Tampa Bay

The work week will start of relatively dry across Tampa Bay, but rain chances will increase throughout the week with a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms near 50 percent on Friday.Skies will be mostly sunny on Monday, with only a 20 percen...
Published: 07/16/18
Seasonal weather remains consistent across Tampa Bay through weekend

Seasonal weather remains consistent across Tampa Bay through weekend

Tampa Bay residents can expect typical July weather patterns Friday and heading into the weekend as warm weather and sunshine leads to possible afternoon storms.The National Weather Service has most of the storms developing inland during the afternoo...
Published: 07/13/18
Chris downgraded to post-tropical cyclone, will bring rain, dangerous surf to Canada

Chris downgraded to post-tropical cyclone, will bring rain, dangerous surf to Canada

Although Chris may no longer be a hurricane, the storm could still have a significant impact on weather both on the East Coast and Canada as it races across the Atlantic and toward Canada.Hours after being downgraded to a tropical storm, Chris was de...
Published: 07/12/18
Continued high humidity with increased chance for afternoon thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

Continued high humidity with increased chance for afternoon thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

It should be a sunny Thursday around Tampa Bay with partly skies and a 20-30 percent chance of rain by the late afternoon.Most of those storms will be driven further inland by the coastal breeze sweeping in from the Gulf of Mexico, according to the N...
Published: 07/12/18
Continued heat and humidity across Tampa Bay, and more rain this weekend

Continued heat and humidity across Tampa Bay, and more rain this weekend

The second half of the week will continue Tampa Bay’s slow trek through the dog days of summer with afternoon heat indexes surpassing 100 degrees.Expect a hot and humid Wednesday as highs reach 92, with high humidity making it feel more like 100-105,...
Published: 07/11/18
Hurricane Chris quickly strengthens, generates dangerous surf on path to Canada

Hurricane Chris quickly strengthens, generates dangerous surf on path to Canada

The second hurricane of the 2018 season has quickly strengthened into a Category 2 storm that is moving away from the U.S. but making a bee-line toward Canada and, eventually, Iceland.As of Wednesday at 5 a.m., Hurricane Chris was situated about 315 ...
Published: 07/11/18
Pasco residents, officials use Irma’s lessons for upcoming hurricane plans

Pasco residents, officials use Irma’s lessons for upcoming hurricane plans

NEW PORT RICHEY — Melissa Detwiler, a resident of Seven Springs Trailer Park, bought her travel trailer in May 2017. When Hurricane Irma hit in September, she left it on the highest ground in the park and evacuated to Orlando.She and her trailer were...
Published: 07/11/18