Hurricane experts with the federal government downgraded their predictions on Thursday for the rest of hurricane season, saying there’s a 60 percent chance the final months will bring below-average storm activity.
That’s a significant shift from original predictions, when National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters back in May said there was a 70 percent chance for an average to above-average season. Now, NOAA forecasters say there’s only a 10 percent chance of an above-average season.
Researchers predict the season will bring nine to 13 named storms, of which four to seven are hurricanes. Researchers also predicted zero to two major hurricanes, Category 3 storms with wind speeds at least 111 mph. The season has already brought four named storms, two of which were hurricanes. None was major or did significant damage.
The initial seasonal outlook called for 10 and 16 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes.
August is normally when hurricane activity ramps up. But forecasters said there is a 70 percent chance a hurricane-killing El Nino develops. El Nino is the name for warmer-than-normal water in the tropical Pacific Ocean that sends strong winds across the tropical Atlantic, sheering apart hurricanes.
Also, NOAA officials said, sea temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean have remained cool. That’s bad for hurricanes, which feed of warm water.
An average season brings 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, according to NOAA.
A quiet season would be an appreciated respite for coastal residents, many of whom were battered by 2017’s hyperactive season, which included the three landmark storms Harvey, Irma and Maria. Together, they account for more than a thousand deaths and hundreds of billions in damage.
However, a quieter season doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a strong storm, or that one doesn’t make landfall. Hurricane Andrew, which hit Homestead and decimiated southeast Florida, was one of the strongest storms on record and came during the otherwise below-average 1992 season.
"Today’s updated outlook is a reminder that we are entering the height of hurricane season and everyone needs to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge," Brock Long, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. "Now is the time to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update your insurance and have a preparedness plan. Don’t let down your guard; late season storms are always a possibility. Always keep your plans updated."