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Above-normal hurricane season still expected despite slow start, forecasters say

August to October is when 90% of tropical storm activity occurs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In this Nov. 12, 2020, photo, Jett Tanner, 68, from Tampa, crosses Bayshore Boulevard beside a muddy and damaged street sign after Tropical Storm Eta.
In this Nov. 12, 2020, photo, Jett Tanner, 68, from Tampa, crosses Bayshore Boulevard beside a muddy and damaged street sign after Tropical Storm Eta. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 4|Updated Aug. 4

Right on the cusp of peak hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday it’s continuing to forecast an active season.

During a mid-season update, the government agency announced the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season now stands at 60%. The prediction falls slightly from the agency’s May prediction, when it forecast a 65% chance of an above-normal season.

To date, there have been three named storms this year. While it may have felt like June and July were slower than usual, the quieter months were not unexpected, according to Matthew Rosencrans, the lead hurricane season outlook forecaster at the agency. August to October is when 90% of hurricane activity occurs, he said.

The 5% decrease in the chance of an above-normal hurricane season translated to a 5% increase in a near-normal season, from 25% in May to 30% Thursday, the agency said. The chances of a below-normal season remain at 10%.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an updated hurricane season outlook Thursday. The agency is continuing to forecast an above-average hurricane season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released an updated hurricane season outlook Thursday. The agency is continuing to forecast an above-average hurricane season. [ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ]

The agency said sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic have been more varied than expected. Some parts are warmer than normal while in other areas, such as off the coast of Portugal, there are temperatures that are slightly cooler, Rosencrans said.

In all, the weather agency is predicting 14 to 20 named storms. Six to 10 of those could become hurricanes, and three to five of those could be major hurricanes. Major hurricanes are categorized as a Category 3 or above and have winds of at least 110 mph.

“While the tropics have been relatively quiet over the last month, remember that it only takes one landfall storm to devastate a community,” Rosencrans said. “Now is the time to know your risk, develop a plan and be prepared for potential tropical storms or hurricanes.”

Rosencrans said that last year there wasn’t much tropical development from July through Aug. 11. After that, an average of 2.4 tropical storms formed each week until the end of September.

By the end of that hurricane season, 2021 was the third-busiest year on record for named storms, Rosencrans said, and 2020 was the busiest year on record — those two years produced a combined 51 named storms.

Rosencrans said the government agency’s predictions are based on long-term data, not just information from the past few years.

So far, this season may seem behind when comparing formed storms to recent years, but really, it’s closer to a normal hurricane season, he said.

La Niña conditions likely will remain in place for the rest of 2022, which could enhance the chances of more hurricane activity, the agency said. Weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and periodically above-normal Atlantic sea surface temperatures also could lead to a more active season.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don't understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.

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