Tropical Storm Ana earlier this month aside, June 1st marks the beginning of the “official” Atlantic Hurricane season. So what can we expect this year? Exact predictions are always iffy, but noted expert Dr. William Gray and his colleague Philip Klotzbach, both of Colorado State University, predict 7 named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. If true, this would be one of the quietest hurricane seasons in the last 60-years. The long term average is for 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Some recent years have seen in excess of 20 named storms.
Why the smaller numbers? One factor is the development of a strong El Nino in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Historically, El Nino years have fewer hurricanes along with other effects. The Weather Channel has created a nice page and video explaining this.
It is extremely important to note, however, that it only takes one major landfalling hurricane to cause vast damage and many casualties. Just because the long range hurricane forecast seems to be encouraging, we’re not out of the woods.
In preparation for the 2015 hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center is unveiling a new system of communicating storm surge threats and vulnerabilities. As has been seen over and over, some of the most devastating damage from hurricanes is not always from strong winds but from storm surge, the wall of water that is pushed out in advance of the center of the hurricane.
This week, May 24-30, is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. For those of you who have a role educating others about hurricanes here’s a link to FEMA’s toolkit. And here is material from the National Hurricane Center/NOAA.
National Dam Safety Awareness Day is May 31st. That date is the anniversary of the failure of the South Fork Dam which resulted in the infamous Johnstown (PA) flood. More than 2,200 lives were lost in what is considered the worst dam failure in the history of the United States according to FEMA.
The National Dam Safety Program is led by FEMA and a partnership of states, federal agencies and other stakeholders. Dams are part of an aging infrastructure and continued attention is vital in averting future catastrophic failures.