1. Hurricane

Above-normal hurricane season now more likely with El Niño’s end, NOAA says

The agency predicts five to nine hurricanes this season, two to four of them at the level of Category 3 or higher.

There’s an increased likelihood that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season will be above-normal now that the irregular weather pattern known as El Niño has faded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.

Scientists now predict 10 to 17 named storms throughout the season, which runs June through November. Five to nine of them could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes Category 3 or higher with winds of 111 mph or greater.

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

Two named storms already have formed this season. One became Hurricane Barry, a Category 1 hurricane that hit Louisiana in July. Historically, 95 percent of all Atlantic hurricanes form from August through October.

In May, forecasters predicted a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season. They expected El Niño, a hurricane suppressant that creates wind shear over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, to cancel out conditions that have led to stronger hurricane activity since 1995.

Those conditions include a stronger West African monsoon, weaker wind shear across the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and wind patterns coming off the coast of Africa that can spin up storms, said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane season forecaster.

But El Niño has dissipated. El Niño-related wind patterns may still continue and partially offset conditions that fuel hurricanes, Bell said, but not to the extent predicted in May.

The government’s forecast is slightly higher than that of Colorado State University, which also issues hurricane season forecasts.

The university’s August outlook continued to predict an average season, with 12 named storms, seven hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Colorado State’s forecast still falls within the government’s predicted ranges.

COLORADO STATE’S LATEST FORECAST: Seven hurricanes, two major storms.

As peak hurricane season begins, Bell urged coastal residents to visit for tips.

“Everyone should know the risk, have a plan and be prepared,” he said.

2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

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