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  1. Hurricane

Latest storm forecast holds steady: six hurricanes, two big ones.

Colorado State University’s latest hurricane forecast doesn’t deviate from its earlier predictions. Scientists still foresee an average storm season.
This NASA photo shows they eye of Hurricane Michael as seen from the International Space Station as it made landfill on Oct. 10, 2018. (NASA via AP)
Published Jul. 9
Updated Jul. 9

In their latest Atlantic hurricane season update, Colorado State University scientists again predict near average tropical cyclone activity this year.

Researchers are calling for 14 named storms, six of which are hurricanes, according to the forecast released Tuesday. They also predict there will be two major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or higher with wind speeds at least 111 mph.

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

Those numbers are identical to Colorado State’s June predictions, and match almost exactly the average storm numbers observed between 1981 and 2010. The average over that period was 12.1 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes.

The reason this forecast didn’t change from the one issued last month is because two opposing variables that impact hurricane season weakened. On the one hand, the chances went down for an El Niño, which is warmer-than-normal water in the tropical Pacific Ocean that creates storm-sheering winds across the Atlantic Ocean.

The lack of an El Niño makes it easier for storms to organize and grow. On the other hand, Atlantic water temperatures have dropped. Since hurricanes feed off warm water, cooler temperatures means less energy for storms.

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Forecasters are already watching a low-pressure system that moved south over Georgia into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. It could develop into a tropical system now that it has reached the warm Gulf waters. If it reaches tropical storm status, it would be called Barry, the second named storm of the year.

Officially, the season began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. But the first named storm arrived of the 2019 season arrived a bit early on May 20, when short-lived Subtropical Storm Andrea developed south of Bermuda. It dissipated soon thereafter.

Since the season is expected to be close to average, the likelihood that a major hurricane will make landfall is also close to average, researchers wrote.

After experiencing an unprecedented 11-year hurricane drought, Florida has been hit by hurricanes three years in a row: Hermine hit in the Big Bend area in 2016, Irma hit the Keys and then Marco Island in 2017 and Michael hit the Panhandle in 2018.

Whether forecasters predict an average storm season, it only takes one to inflict catastrophic damage. Hurricane Irma reached Category 4 strength and after Michael was later upgraded to Category 5 status. Michael is now considered one of the strongest storms on record to make landfall in the continental U.S.

Contact Josh Solomon at jsolomon@tampabay.com or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.


2019 TAMPA BAY TIMES HURRICANE GUIDE

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter


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