Busy hurricane season projected, but early months could be light as coronavirus concerns continue

Tribune Content Agency

ORLANDO, Fla. — With just two months before the start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season meteorologists are expecting some overlap with the coronavirus pandemic.

However, meteorologists at AccuWeather predict low activity in the Atlantic during the early part of the summer, but they’re also expecting the peak of hurricane season to experience an above-normal rate of activity, said Dan Kottlowski, lead AccuWeather meteorologist, during a Tuesday webinar.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, according to data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2020 season begins June 1 and stretches to Nov. 30. During that time AccuWeather predicts to see seven to nine hurricanes, with about two to four of them becoming major hurricanes — a storm with maximum sustained wind speeds greater than 130 mph.

The accumulated cyclonic energy (ACE) for 2019, or the over all tropical activity observed in the Atlantic, was calculated at 129 — which was above average, Kottlowski said. However, meteorologists are already seeing signs yielding the possibility for 2020 1/4 u2032s ACE to be between 120 and 140.

While there is no crystal ball, Kottlowski acknowledged the potential for the season to become hyperactive with an ACE value over 153 yielding more than 20 storms.

The good news, El Ni 1/4 u00f1o–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) looks like it will be weak from April to June, meaning high wind sheer will create difficult conditions for tropical storm development, Kottlowski said.

However, this reprieve will be short-lived come the months of August, September and October when ENSO is forecast to transition into a low La Ni 1/4 u00f1a event causing sea surface temperatures to be warmer than normal.

With low predicted wind sheer and high surface level temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic’s main development region; which stretches from the Caribbean to the waters of South America and over to the coast of west Africa, strong tropical development is expected.

East coast residents are already dealing with an unprecedented crisis, but the time to prepare for the 2020 hurricane season is now, said Becky DePodwin, an emergency prepared specialist and meteorologist at AccuWeather.

“There is a the potential that we could be still dealing with the crisis in June … COVID-19 testing centers represent potentially risky sites during severe weather season,” DePodwin. “There’s a lot going on right now, but we’re here to ensure and make sure everyone is focused on COVID-19 and weather.”

Despite the possible overlap of crises, experts at the National Hurricane Center are ready for whatever the 2020 season has in store.

“The National Hurricane Center is prepared and we will continue to meet our mission,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the NHC. “The National Weather Service’s continuity of operations plan ensures that the National Hurricane Center forecast operations are not disrupted for any reason, including COVID-19. This plan is frequently updated and rehearsed to ensure the National Weather Service is ready for any potential scenario.”

If forecasters do fall ill because of the spread of the coronavirus, the NHC has contingencies in place for support including a number of forecasters ready to handle additional responsibilities, and auxiliary help from for forecasters at the Weather Prediction Center.

“When service backup is required, every effort is made to ensure the transition and service delivery is instant and seamless for customers and partners,” Feltgen said.

In the mean time, experts are recommending residents off the Atlantic to prepare now. It might seem early but the last five seasons all saw tropical development before June 1.

Cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizers are important for hurricane kits, but a hard commodity to come by in light of current events. However, DePodwin encourages residents to keep their eyes out for it and save it for the upcoming season.

“If you looking to prepare, try buying things that aren’t being purchased in bulk right now, batteries, chargers, whistles for help or an NOAA weather radio,” DePowdin said.


©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.