Redefining Hurricane season

About 1,500 utility bucket trucks stage Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, on East County Road 470 near Florida's Turnpike in Sumter County. Duke Energy staged about 3,000 trucks in the county to respond to Hurricane Dorian.

Some hurricane seasons of recent memory once considered above average now would be classified as the norm.

Following a decade of busy hurricane seasons, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has changed the number of named storms and hurricanes that make an average hurricane season.

This update to the seasonal average, which takes place once every 10 years, reflects a new 30-year period of record that spans from 1991 to 2020. Previous averages were based on figures from 1981 to 2010.

And with a period of many busy hurricane seasons — including a record 2020 season intense enough that the National Hurricane Center both used and subsequently retired an entire backup naming system — the average increased.

Now, NOAA will define an average hurricane season as having 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes — two more named storms and one more hurricane than the previous 30-year average.

What it means for Florida

The updated storm averages were intended to more accurately reflect the public’s “collective experience” of the past decade’s hurricane seasons, said Matt Rosencrans, seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Those seasons tended to be more active than the previous average, he said.

NOAA’s research suggests the warming of oceans and the atmosphere may be factors in the increase in averages, but more research is needed to confirm and better understand those impacts, Rosencrans said.

Put simply, Floridians may expect to prepare for busier storm seasons going forward.

Some experts consider being ready for at least one storm as a prerequisite of living here, given Florida’s proven vulnerability to hurricanes as the state with the most direct hurricane strikes.

Of the 292 hurricanes to directly hit the U.S. Atlantic coast from 1851 to 2019, 120 struck Florida, according to NOAA. That included 37 out of 91 major hurricanes.

Staying prepared

Meanwhile, a new hurricane season is less than two months away.

The first long-range forecasts of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, issued this month by Accuweather and Colorado State University, anticipate a range of 16 to 20 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.

Even under NOAA’s redefined average, it’s an above-average outlook.

Philip Klotzbach, the hurricane researcher who compiled Colorado State’s outlook, offered a 45% probability that at least one major hurricane would make landfall in 2021 on the U.S. East Coast.

These long-range outlooks reinforce a need to prepare before a storm arrives.

Experts frequently recommend stocking an emergency supply kit, including a battery-powered weather alert radio and at least a week’s worth of food, water and supplies, and developing a plan with tasks to do before, during and after a hurricane.

Residents can get storm updates from WVLG on 102.7 FM, 104.5 FM or 640 AM, or by using The Villages or The Villages Daily Sun mobile apps.

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