Put down those peanut butter crackers you’ve been skimming from your hurricane kit — there are still weeks to go until the official end of hurricane season.
A little over a month remains until the six-month, nerve-fraying season comes to a close on Nov. 30. Even with Hurricane Ian’s devastation in Southwest Florida, this year’s season has been quieter than anticipated. And as the season winds down, forecasters are expecting only one or two more named storms.
There have been 11 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes this year. Those numbers fall below the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction for the season. On the low end, the agency predicted at least 14 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
There’s still some time, however. Matthew Rosencrans, the lead hurricane season outlook forecaster at the agency’s Climate Prediction Center, expects to see a named storm or two in the last week of October going into November.
“Like the first week of November you could still have some hurricanes,” Rosencrans said. “It’s kind of just an extension of October, and by the time you get to the end of November, you have very low odds of it.”
On average, there’s a named storm in November every other year, a hurricane every four years, and a major hurricane every six years, Rosencrans said.
By November, waters have already begun to cool and that makes conditions less ideal for storm formation, Brian McClure, a meteorologist at Spectrum Bay News 9, said. Just last week, the cold front that passed through from the north dropped water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico 10 degrees, he said.
“All we need is maybe one more (cold front) and once that happens, you start to cool the Gulf and the western Atlantic so much that it’s really hard for these storms to have an abundance of energy,” McClure said.
The only cold front on the horizon is a weak one that hit our area Wednesday of this week. The National Weather Service said the front will fall apart as it moves across the state and will bring nothing near the cooldown we saw last week.
The hot spots where storms still have a chance to form are in the western Atlantic — between the Bahamas and Bermuda — and in the Caribbean, McClure said. Those are the areas where temperatures remain warm enough to support a brewing storm, and where the storms are far enough from cold fronts and wind shear to survive.
“And as of the next week, week and a half, sure enough, it’s not a surprise that those are the two areas where some of our guidance does suggest that one or two tropical lows will try to develop,” McClure said.
The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday was watching two systems: one in the eastern Caribbean and another in the southwestern Atlantic. The good news is that the chance of either system affecting the United States is low, McClure said.
“The end of this season, I don’t see an extreme … increase and I don’t see an extreme drop-off either,” McClure said. “It looks very normal to me, where we could get one or two more, and then it just kind of winds down.”
In four of the past five years, there has been at least one named storm in November. In 2020 — the busiest hurricane season on record — two hurricanes and a tropical storm were alive and kicking in that month. That year, Hurricane Eta hit Nicaragua as a Category 4 hurricane and then Florida as a tropical storm in early November.
Rosencrans said the uptick that year in late-season storms was the product of a busy hurricane season.
“It’s just you have more (storms), which means you have more favorable conditions on the Atlantic for forming them, so you can just form them a little bit earlier and a little bit later,” Rosencrans said.
More than 100 years ago, the last storm to directly hit Tampa Bay made landfall on Oct. 25, 1921. The infamous storm hit Tarpon Springs as a Category 3, according to weather instruments from the time. The storm killed eight people and destroyed homes and the region’s citrus crops.
“A lot of people tend to think of late October as, ‘it’s too late,’ but it’s not,” McClure said.
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