Hurricane season coming into its peak

Hurricane Laura churns in the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 25 ahead of making landfall Aug. 27 in Louisiana.

The record-setting activity of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is not over yet. A two-week outlook from Colorado State University suggests we’re in for more tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean after forecasters tracked “vigorous easterly waves” with potential of forming. While it remains to be seen whether they’ll be as devastating as Hurricane Laura in the Gulf Coast or short-lived over water like Tropical Storm Omar, the chance of above-normal hurricane activity reminds Floridians to be prepared for a storm impacting the state. Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center are monitoring two named storms, Tropical Storm Paulette and Tropical Storm Rene. Both are currently on a northwest track. Paulette is aiming toward Bermuda and the Southeast coast, but it currently poses no threat to land, according to the hurricane center. It’s too early to tell whether Paulette will impact Florida.

Rene, which formed Monday, produced heavy wind and rain in the Cabo Verde Islands, located near Africa’s coast. From there, its forecast track predicts it will churn over the ocean through the weekend with no further threat to land.

The hurricane center also is tracking two disturbances with a chance of strengthening into a named storm: One about 300 miles west of Bermuda that’s expected to approach the Southeast coast with a 40% chance of forming within the next five days, and another off the west coast of Africa with a 70% chance of forming.

The high tropical activity is because of below-normal wind shear and conditions that favor upward motion over Africa and the Indian Ocean, which allows for storm formation, said Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist with Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project.

The peak is here

All this matters because it exemplifies how this time of year is when the Atlantic coast experiences the most tropical storm activity. Thursday will mark the traditional peak of the hurricane season.

And the Atlantic already was experiencing above-average activity before the peak, said Dave Towle, senior forecaster with WVLG 102.7 FM, 104.5 FM & 640 AM.

“As we moved into September, we are only 50% through the hurricane season and have seen Tropical Storm Pauline and Tropical Storm Rene named as the 17th and 18th storms so far this year, along with two additional areas of interest still on the African continent,” he said in a forecast.

The season’s high activity broke records set by the 2005 season, which was marked by three intense and destructive storms: hurricane’s Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Rita, which formed Sept. 18, 2005, was the earliest “R” storm on record to form until Tropical Storm Rene this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Towle observed that only four names on the hurricane center’s list remain for the hurricane season. Those names are Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.

When a hurricane season has more than 21 named storms, additional storms are named for letters in the Greek alphabet, according to storm-naming standards set by the World Meteorological Association.

The first and most recent time this happened was the 2005 season, when six storms — tropical storms Alpha, Gamma, Delta and Zeta, and hurricanes Beta and Epsilon — formed between Oct. 22 and Dec. 30.

Towle thinks it “looks very likely” that we’ll see the Greek alphabet reused for hurricane names this year.

Stay prepared

Experts frequently recommend stocking an emergency supply kit, including a battery-powered weather alert radio, and developing a plan with tasks to do before, during and after a hurricane. State emergency management officials and Gov. Ron DeSantis encouraged Floridians to stock at least seven days’ worth of emergency supplies, including food and water.

With this year’s hurricane season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA is recommending people also stock hand sanitizer, a face mask and disinfectant wipes as part of their supply kits.

Other storm preparedness tips local emergency management experts and weather forecasters offer include securing insurance documents, filling up gasoline tanks and ensuring generators are serviced before the storm.

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.