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  1. Hurricane

Latest hurricane forecast: seven hurricanes, two major storms.

Colorado State University’s latest forecast still calls for an “average” storm season. But the number of predicted hurricanes rose from six to seven.
This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration infrared satellite image shows Hurricane Michael approaching the Florida panhandle on Oct. 11, 2018. It made landfall a few hours later near Mexico Beach and thrashed the Florida Panhandle. It was later upgraded to Category 5 strength. [NOAA via AP]

The latest Atlantic hurricane season update from Colorado State University scientists continues to predict a relatively average hurricane season due to near-average surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and the weakening of El Niño in the tropical Pacific.

The seasonal forecast remains mostly the same: a total of 14 named storms, but a slight increase in the number of predicted hurricanes, going from six to seven such storms. That total was raised to account for the brief development of Hurricane Barry into a Category 1 storm in July.

“Barry was a really, really short-lived piece of junk, but it was still a hurricane,” said Philip Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University who co-authors its annual hurricane forecast.

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

Scientists predict there will be two major hurricanes at Category 3 or higher, and with wind speeds of at least 111 mph. Those numbers match Colorado State’s June and July predictions, and are almost exactly the same as 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.

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.

An El Niño weather pattern can mean that increased westerly winds tear apart hurricanes before they can form, the report said. El Niño has weakened in recent months, but it still left behind warmer waters in the tropical Pacific that should slightly inhibit the development of tropical cyclones.

Conditions in the Caribbean and the Atlantic currently present a mixed picture. Warm seasons, more moisture and lower wind shear usually lead to a more active hurricane season in that region. In July, the tropical Atlantic was moister than normal, the central tropical Atlantic was slightly warmer and the eastern tropical Atlantic was slightly cooler than normal. The Caribbean was drier than normal and the vertical wind shear was a bit stronger than usual.

RELATED STORY: Hurricane Michael destroyed their homes. Then the insurance heartache began.

Hurricane season officially started June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. But the first named storm 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.

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

Scientists reminded coastal residents that a nearly-average hurricane system can still be catastrophic. “It only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” the report said.


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


What Michael taught the Panhandle and Tampa Bay

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael.

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

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