2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Begins Today
The Atlantic hurricane season could be the busiest since 2005, when Katrina and Rita caused massive destruction along the same part of the Gulf Coast now struggling with the largest offshore oil spill in US history, government scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said last week. According to NOAA’s predictions, the 2010 season may spawn as many as 23 named tropical storms, including up to seven major hurricanes, a number not likely to be affected by the spill. The Atlantic hurricane season begins today, June 1 and runs through November 30.
In April, researchers at Colorado State University predicted 15 named storms would form this season, with four developing into major hurricanes. NOAA is calling for eight to 14 storms to strengthen into hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or higher; three to seven of those could become major storms that reach Category 3 or higher -- meaning they bring sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour. “This season could be one of the more active on record,” said NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. “The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall. In short, we urge everyone to be prepared.” Lubchenco reminded the public that beginning this hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will begin issuing warnings and watches for tropical storms and hurricanes 12 hours earlier than in prior years.
“This year’s hurricane season is forecasted to be a busy one, with a strong chance of a major hurricane making landfall in the US,” said ARRL Emergency Preparedness and Response Manager Mike Corey, W5MPC. “I would encourage all amateurs in hurricane-prone areas to take part in any planning, drills or exercises, have your go-kits in order, review your local plans, make sure your home and family are safe and be ready if called upon. We here at ARRL Headquarters are already making plans to assist amateurs in the field if and when needed this season.”
NHC Director Bill Read, KB5FYA, said that his biggest concern for the season is a storm striking Haiti, where hundreds of thousands of people have been living in makeshift camps since the January 12 earthquake struck the island nation. Heavy rains can trigger serious flooding and mudslides in the mountainous Caribbean country, but no evacuation plans exist for displaced communities.
A hurricane might help break up the oil spill staining the Gulf of Mexico, but the oil won’t affect significantly how tropical storms develop, forecasters said. They don’t know what kind of environmental hazards to expect, though there are fears that winds and waves could push the oil deeper into estuaries and wetlands. As of last week, anywhere from 500,000 gallons to a million gallons a day have been leaking from the site where an oil rig exploded on April 20, killing 11 people. BP -- the London-based company that leased the rig and is responsible for the cleanup -- and the US Coast Guard had previously estimated the flow was about 210,000 gallons per day.
The expanding slick already has coated wildlife and marshes in Louisiana, but Lubchenco said the spill is still small relative to hurricanes -- which sometimes span the entire Gulf. Although some oil could be pushed inland by a storm as it makes landfall, it could be difficult to determine whether it leaked from flooded cars or factories, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate said.
“FEMA is working across the administration and with our state and local partners to ensure we’re prepared for hurricane season,” Fugate said. “But we can only be as prepared as the public, so it’s important that families and businesses in coastal communities take steps now to be ready. These include developing a communications plan, putting together a kit, and staying informed of the latest forecasts and local emergency plans. You can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, but you can make sure you're ready.”
The 2010 government forecast is based on the weakening of El Nino. The Pacific Ocean phenomenon created strong wind shear that helped suppress storm development in the Atlantic last season. Record warm water temperatures also will feed storms crossing the Atlantic this year. Three hurricanes developed out of nine tropical storms in 2009; none of the hurricanes came ashore in the United States. Hurricane Ida hit Nicaragua as a Category 1 storm in November.
Tropical storms are named when their sustained winds reach 39 mph. The first named storm of the 2010 season will be Alex; Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie and Walter round out the hurricane names for 2010.