WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Recent years have brought a lot of serious storms to southeast North Carolina.
According to hurricane forecast experts at NOAA, Colorado State, and NC. State, it looks like this will be another year in which we have to watch the Atlantic very closely.
Above normal tropical activity is likely once again. In fact, the 2020 hurricane season began on May 16 with the formation of Tropical Storm Arthur off the southeast U.S. coast. Just last week, Tropical Storm Bertha quickly developed off the coast of South Carolina and promptly made landfall. Now with the development of Tropical Storm Cristobal in the Bay of Campeche, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is off to its fastest start in recorded history.
What exactly goes into these season forecasts, and what do the experts look at?
This season, a lack of El Nino or La Nina conditions, low wind shear, and unusually warm temperatures in the Atlantic are the prime reasons for heightened activity.
Colorado State does the most comprehensive forecast. In an update from their pre-season forecast, they now predict 19 named storms (12 is normal), nine hurricanes (six is normal), and four major hurricanes (three is normal). CSU forecasters take their forecast one step further as they project: the Caribbean, U.S. east coast, and Gulf coast are all at an above normal risk for a direct hit from a major hurricane.
Dating back to 2016, the year of Hurricane Matthew, this is the most active early season forecast Colorado State has issued. Even more troublesome -- Dr. Phil Klotzbach and his team identified this year’s conditions as being similar to 1996.
All years are different, but 1996 was an especially bad year for hurricanes in southeast North Carolina, two of which made landfall that year. The first was Hurricane Bertha in July. Then in September, Hurricane Fran made landfall near Topsail Beach as the last major hurricane to directly strike southeast North Carolina. Combined these two storms killed 39 people and caused over $5 billion in damage.
Of course, the experts couldn’t predict how a global pandemic would impact the hurricane season. COVID-19 is already changing how emergency management plans are implemented and it could alter everything from getting critical supplies to staying at a hurricane shelter.
Keep in mind that even though the 2020 hurricane season is predicted to be an active one, a hurricane could impact the coast even in a “slow” season.
Remember -- “Every hurricane season is like your favorite card game. You never know what hand mother nature will deal southeast North Carolina. Prepare now."