In a little more than six weeks, the 2018 tropical storm and hurricane season will begin. The official date it begins is June 1, and it ends Nov, 30. Over the last 30 years for the Atlantic and Caribbean waters, there are an average of 12 named storms. Six of those storms become hurricanes, with two of them in the “major” Category 3 or higher.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a very destructive year. There were 17 named storms and 6 major hurricanes. It was the fifth most active season since records began in 1851. Last year also had the highest number of hurricanes since 2005.
Although the tropical storm and hurricane season officially starts in June, the first named storm in 2017 formed on April 19 and was named Arlene. Since then, there were four major hurricanes that were so destructive that the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee retired their names. They included Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. This is just the fifth time that four or more names were retired in a single season.
Last year was the costliest tropical cyclone season on record, with a price tag of $282.22 billion. That figure accounted for about 25 percent of all the combined natural disasters in the United States from 1980 until 2017. And, this figure didn’t include the major wildfires in the West or all the droughts and other floods across the country last year.
Both Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. coastlines as Category 4 hurricanes, but Irma earlier hit the Virgin Islands as a Category 5. Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico. That was the first time in recorded history that three Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. and its territories in the same season. And when Hurricane Nate hit landfall near Biloxi, Miss., on Oct. 8, that was the fourth hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. in 2017.
After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas — with many areas reporting a staggering 50 inches or more of rain on August 25, 2017 — Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, resulting in catastrophic damage over parts of the Sunshine State. Maria knocked out power to over 90 percent of Puerto Rico and caused enormous amounts of damage.
To be classified as a Category 5 hurricane, “sustained” winds must be at least 156 mph. Since 1851, there have been 32 hurricanes that reached Category 5 status. Amazingly enough, only three of these hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5. In 2005, Katrina weakened to a Category 3 when it hit New Orleans.
For the 2018 season, thanks at least in part to the cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature pattern in the south-central Pacific Ocean, we could see another year with more named storms and hurricanes than normal.
According to the hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University, scientists predict that the Atlantic and Caribbean waters will see 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. Three of those hurricanes are expected to be “major” for the 2018 season.
Cliff and I believe that there will be 15 to 18 named storms. We also think that there will be 7 or 8 hurricanes, with 3 to 4 of them falling into the major Category 3 or higher status. Based on expected weather patterns later this summer and early fall, Cliff believes that most of the hurricanes would ride up the East Coast rather than go into the Gulf of Mexico.
Last month, the Northeast had three “back-to-back-to-back” Nor’easters that produced heavy snows, heavy rains and strong winds. It’s possible that if La Nina hangs around, then we could see another “back-to-back-to-back” hurricane scenario. With this pattern of wide weather “extremes” showing no signs of letting up anytime soon, this upcoming tropical storm and hurricane season may be another costly one. Let’s hope not.
In terms of our local weather, April will turn out to be another wetter than normal month in Coeur d’Alene and other areas of the Inland Northwest. Our normal precipitation for this month is 1.77 inches. We’ve already passed that figure as about 2.5 inches of rain and melted snow has fallen, and more is on the way. Speaking of snow, Cliff has measured 90.3 inches for the season. We could see a few more snowflakes this week, but it looks like the books for the 2017-18 snowfall season can be closed.
This wetter than normal weather pattern will likely persist through at least the early to mid-portion of May. Then, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ll turn to the drier and warmer side later next month and June.
Upcoming weather patterns for this summer are looking similar to the ones last year. As I mentioned last week, the big moisture totals we’re seeing now will lead to more growth of vegetation across the region, which could create another tough wildfire season.
Contact Randy Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org