Hurricane 2020: Bay News 9′s Mike Clay says driving to Georgia is not a good plan | Column

Spectrum Bay News 9′s chief meteorologist explains what this year’s active forecast means for you — and why trying to leave the state is not a good idea.
Left: Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. Right: A satellite image of Hurricane Michael as it enters the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 9, 2018.
Left: Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. Right: A satellite image of Hurricane Michael as it enters the Gulf of Mexico on Oct. 9, 2018. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 | NOAA ]
Published May 29, 2020

Unfortunately, the 2020 hurricane season is expected to be busy in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

The parameters appear to be coming together for an above-normal season due to warm ocean water in the Atlantic’s “Main Development Region” (last year it was cooler than normal). Also, there is no sign of an El Niño this year. In the past, higher winds aloft brought on by an El Niño has hampered Atlantic hurricane activity.

Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay.
Spectrum Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. [ Spectrum Bay News 9 ]

The latest analysis shows a La Niña (the opposite of El Niño) might try to form in the Pacific later this season. Historically, hurricane seasons with a La Niña developing in the Pacific Ocean have been active in the Atlantic Basin.

Forecasts from Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University and Joe Bastardi at Weatherbell all seem to be saying the same thing: get prepared for an active year.

Related: Hurricane 2020: Seven things to know about a hurricane season like no other

So what does this mean for you? The long-range forecasts are great science but have little meaning to an individual or a specific location. During busy years, if no hurricanes hit here, we’ve heard comments of “well, they were wrong again” when there have actually been many storms. So I say it every year, prepare like this is the year you are going to get hit.

It doesn’t matter what the long-range forecasts say, even if they predict a below-normal year. It only takes one hurricane hitting you, and it is suddenly an active year for you and your family.

Related: Hurricane 2020: The gear you need to stay safe from the storm — and COVID-19

The most important thing to keep in mind is a plan for your family and your business. After-storm surveys have found that people who have a plan do much better than those who leave it up to the last minute.

The second-most important thing is to be willing and able to quickly change your plan. Weather isn’t black and white; things will always change and can do so quickly in tropical systems. Expect to have to make last-minute adjustments to your hurricane plan and stay informed.

Because we are on the west coast of Florida, hurricane threats and tracks here aren’t as well defined as they are in other geographic regions. Our threats are often early in the season with tropical storms and then late in the season with the bigger hurricane threats.

Related: Hurricane 2020: Protect your home, business, documents and photos

Remember, Hurricane Michael forming in the Western Caribbean late in the season two years ago? That is a classic late-season threat for the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is rare, but a Caribbean to Gulf threat is the main thing we have to be concerned about in the Tampa Bay region.

Most people don’t know their evacuation zone. Make sure you know yours and know why you would need to evacuate. As we say “run from the water, hide from the wind.” Evacuations are ordered for storm surge and not for wind, unless you live in a mobile home. Try to evacuate 10s of miles and not 100s of miles.

If your evacuation plan is “I’m just going to drive to Georgia” — you need a better plan. As the season starts, remember past storms and try to make your own plan better.

Just like during Hurricane Irma in 2017, Spectrum Bay News 9’s Weather Experts will be here with you this season. Take the forecast four to five days at a time during tropical weather and check in several times a day as things can change. Juli, Josh, Brian, Diane, Nick and I will keep you informed and watch the tropics every day for the next six months as we enter hurricane season.

Mike Clay is chief meteorologist at Spectrum Bay News 9.

Related: Get the latest weather from Spectrum Bay News 9

2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Protect your home, business, documents and photos

BUILD YOUR KIT: The gear you need to stay safe from the storm — and COVID-19

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

Lessons from Hurricane Michael

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