3 Signs in 24 Hours Hurricane Season is Fast Approaching
The official start to the Atlantic hurricane season is still more than six weeks away, but two significant tropical-like flooding events in the past 24 hours have made it clear what's just around the corner.
This was closely followed by the year's first hurricane season forecast released Thursday morning by scientists at Colorado State University (CSU).
Now is a great time to review your company's continuity plans if tropical weather threatens your operations.
Experts Predict Slightly "Below-Normal" Hurricane Season
Slightly below-normal activity is expected this year in the tropical Atlantic basin, according to experts at CSU. Their first official forecast was released Thursday morning, which calls for 13 tropical storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes with winds 111 mph or higher. These numbers suggest that overall activity will be roughly 80% of the 30-year average.
Despite the slightly lower numbers forecast by CSU, probabilities for a U.S. landfall of hurricanes and major hurricanes are normal to slightly above normal. The lead scientist in the report, Dr. Phil Klotzbach, describes this year as having a "wide range" of solutions due to conflicting signals. For example, oceanic temperatures in the eastern Atlantic Ocean are running well above normal. And if the El Niño doesn't develop in time or is relatively weak, the potential for an active season exists, according to the report.
The primary driver of seasonal variability in the quantity and strength of hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) index. This metric is used to determine anomalous water temperatures in the central Pacific Ocean. Cooler waters near the equator, which is coined a La Niña, correlate to more hurricanes over the Atlantic. An El Niño (warmer equatorial Pacific waters) can suppress tropical activity in the Atlantic by causing an increase in upper-level winds (wind shear), which creates a hostile environment for tropical storms.
A major shift in the ENSO signal is forecast to occur this summer and fall, as we transition quickly from a La Niña to an El Niño. An El Niño Watch was even issued by NOAA, also on Thursday, meaning conditions are favorable for a developing El Niño in the next six months. NOAA scientists say there is an 80% to 90% chance an El Niño will form in time for the heart of hurricane season (early fall).
While preseason hurricane forecasts can provide valuable high-level insights, there are many pitfalls to relying on them for critical business decisions.
Meteorologists and emergency managers often use the phrase “it only takes one” to dissuade the public from basing preparation on prior storm experience or pre-season forecasts. The same could be said for business owners and insurers: It ‘only takes one’ bad storm to put you out of business or blow your claims budget.
Historic Flooding Hits South Florida
Nearly two feet of rain fell in just 24 hours in downtown Fort Lauderdale, FL. Wednesday. Dozens of homes and roads were flooding, and the deluge even forced the shutdown of a major airport. Some areas received more than 20 inches of rain in just six hours.
Just shot this drone video of downtown Fort Lauderdale still flooded right now with countless cars trapped in the high water. pic.twitter.com/ATzbIlDuSe— Florida Drone Cleaning LLC DOUGLAS THRON (@douglasthron777) April 13, 2023
The relentless rain was caused by a persistent fetch of tropical moisture from the warm Atlantic waters that interacted with a slow-moving warm front. The front and subtle increase in elevation over land lifted this moisture repeatedly over the same areas. And with light steering winds aloft, the downpours didn't budge.
The disruption from a weather system that appears innocuous -- like the one in South Florida Wednesday -- can be mitigated or even avoided with the right weather data and alerting. It doesn't take a well-advertised tropical weather event to bring your operations to a halt.
Baron Weather has developed exclusive products to help you avoid these perceived unexpected challenges, including a specialized Flash Flood Risk model and high-resolution rainfall accumulation data.
It doesn’t take a hurricane to cause major flooding or tornadoes. Clarity matters when responding to the potential dangers of a tropical storm too.
Coastal Storm Drenches the Central Gulf Coast
A non-tropical area of low pressure spinning off the Gulf Coast of Louisiana created a lot of buzz on social media earlier this week, with many news outlets even suggesting a pre-season tropical storm could form. However, the National Hurricane Center never mentioned the system or issued official outlooks on the faux tropical event.
Satellite and radar data certainly showed what appeared to be a tight circulation just offshore Wednesday, but it was lacking the characteristics necessary to achieve tropical storm status. Nonetheless, heavy rain and a strong onshore flow battered the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, leading to minor coastal and street flooding in some areas. A risk of tornadoes was also identified by the National Weather Service over portions of the Florida Panhandle and Alabama Thursday morning.
The hype surrounding this event (that never really became much of an "event") reminds us of the responsibility we have to use credible weather data when making important business decisions. The right decision at the wrong time can be costly. So we created this guide to making decisions as a hurricane or tropical storm approaches.
This guide can help you overcome the hurricane “information overload” problem often associated with model hype, spaghetti plots, and the infamous cone of uncertainty.
The next hurricane to respond to is not a matter of if but when. Focusing less on a 6-month forecast and more on impact-specific vulnerabilities can better position your resources for the unexpected.
Hurricanes are complex. The logistics of loss avoidance, mitigation, and response are even more complicated. Tracking a cone of uncertainty and waiting on a warning often doesn’t cut it. Knowing when to pull the trigger on response requires precise data, actionable insights, and expert analysis.
Our experts can empower you to make better decisions.