An active hurricane season may be in store for Eastern North Carolina. The Weather Channel released its first 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook last week, calling for more storms than usual.
The forecast calls for 16 named tropical storms, nine of which are expected to become hurricanes, including five major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher, with winds speeds of at least 110 miles per hour). Hurricane season generally begins in June and ends in November.
Colorado State University also released its forecast for this year’s hurricane season, predicting a total of 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. This year’s forecast follows a familiar pattern, as three Atlantic hurricane seasons in a row have had 19 storms.
A hurricane makes landfall about once every two or three years in Eastern North Carolina, said Shawna Cokley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. In October 2012, Eastern North Carolina narrowly dodged “Superstorm Sandy,” one of the most destructive tropical storms in United States history. During the 2011 storm season, Hurricane Irene packed a punch in Tarboro in August, with winds downing trees and causing structural damage to 276 homes in town.
Forecasters point to a rise in sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic during in March as the main ingredient in the recipe for an active hurricane season.
“While it is still three months before hurricane season officially begins, this early warning of the tropical waters is an indication that an active season is in store, and our statistical forecast models confirm this hypothesis,” said Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist for Weather Services International, a part of The Weather Company. “Our current forecast…may be a bit conservative if the warm tropical ocean temperatures persist heading into the season.”
Forecasters will be on the lookout for an El Nino event that could hinder the formation of tropical storms. El Nino is the cyclical warming of East Pacific Ocean seawater temperatures off the coast of South America. At this point in time, forecasters say the formation of El Nino is not likely.
Monitoring the formation of storms on the National Hurricane Center website ( HYPERLINK "http://www.nhc.noaa.gov" www.nhc.noaa.gov) and having an emergency plan in place are great ways to prepare for a hurricane, according to Cokley.
“You want to have your batteries, flashlights, first aid kits,” she said. “Know your evacuation routes if you’re near the coast…Know if you’re in a flood zone.”
While preparedness is key, no Edgecombe County resident could have properly prepared for the wrath of Hurricane Floyd, a Category 4 hurricane that struck on Sept. 16, 1999.
The floodwaters from the storm nearly obliterated the Town of Princeville. David Glenn, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport/ Morehead City, called Floyd an “unforgettable experience all across Eastern North Carolina.” He was in his first semester of college at the UNC-Wilmington when Floyd hit and vividly recalls the impact of the storm.
While few storms cause as much destruction as Hurricane Floyd, another such storm is a possibility this season, with four to five major hurricanes predicted. Forecasters will release another prediction in June, as the storm season approaches.