‘Above average’ season predicted for hurricanes
Every time Memorial Day Weekend rolls around, Dave Roberts’ personality goes through a bit of a change.
That’s because Roberts, the official weather consultant for the City of Sanibel, is very serious about his duty: helping the island prepare for another hurricane season.
"Between June 1 and Nov. 30, I get my game-face on," said Roberts, who also serves as the staff meteorologist for several area radio stations.
Hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University have already warned that Floridians should prepare for an "above-average" tropical storm season. Although they predicted last month that the El Nino conditions which have persisted in the Southwest Florida region throughout the early portion of the year will dissipate by the start of summer, the unusually warm ocean temperatures will provide the "fuel" for potential storms this hurricane season.
According to Dr. William Gray at CSU, this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is anticipated to yield 15 named storms, including 12 hurricanes. Of those, four are predicted to be major hurricanes.
"What does that mean for Sanibel?" asked Roberts. "Not much… but it does give us more to worry about."
On average, Roberts noted, hurricane season experiences 10 named storms, six hurricanes and two intense hurricanes each year. He stated that forecasters must keep a watchful eye on the entire Atlantic seaboard, where most of the hurricanes that have impacted Florida have developed.
"Most of the storms that we’ll see loop up from the south," he said. "As far as I know, only one major storm hit Sanibel from due west. The majority of storms we watch for develop in the Caribbean and curve upward towards us."
One major concern which may have an effect during the 2010 hurricane season is how a storm could stir up any oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.
"I’m a little concerned that after 30 days (following the initial spill) they’ve essentially done nothing," Roberts said. "Now we have to factor that into the equation."
The meteorologist explained that there is "every indication that we’re not going to see any oil here." Among the factors he cited were the Gulf’s loop current and winds.
"The prevailing winds we get are from a southeasterly direction," he noted. "If this (oil spill) had happened during the winter months, with prevailing northwesterly winds, then we’d be more concerned about it."
One concern Roberts does have is, should the oil spill remain in Gulf waters for the next several months, the peak of the hurricane season — the months of August and September — brings choppy waves and unpredictable weather patterns to the region. By then, oil in the water might have a direct impact on Southwest Florida.
One of he biggest concerns if a hurricane hits Sanibel or Captiva is storm surge, wind damage and large amounts of rainfall. Because Sanibel is a flat island, storm surge of any amount would cause problems.
"The likelihood of a large storm surge here is low, but the likelihood of storm surge here is high," he added.
Preparedness, Roberts stated, is still the key element in getting ready for hurricane season. He suggested stocking up on emergency items such as bottled water, batteries and canned goods while developing a good evacuation strategy for you and your family.
"You always need to prepare early," Roberts said. "Most people do nothing, but that’s just human nature. Don’t wait until the last minute to get ready for a storm. Stock up on extra supplies and make a game plan in case you need to evacuate."
For up-to-the-minute local weather conditions and forecasts, visit www.DaveRobertsWeather.com.
Crist: ‘It only takes one hurricane to make it a bad season’
On Monday, Governor Charlie Crist proclaimed May 23-29 as Florida Hurricane Preparedness Week, urging all Floridians to prepare for the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season that begins on June 1.
This year, state, local and federal officials will be engaged in numerous outreach and training activities at the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale throughout the week.
“This year, the State Team and our local and federal partners will participate in extensive training and workshop activities throughout the week in preparation for the beginning of hurricane season,” said State Emergency Management Director David Halstead. “As we are preparing our team and actively engaging in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, now is the time for all who call the Sunshine State home to get a plan and get ready for hurricane season, too.”
For more information, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/intro.shtml.
“Florida has been extremely fortunate over the past few hurricane seasons not to be impacted by a major land falling hurricane,” said Gov. Crist. “However, as Floridians we should always be mindful of the lessons that Hurricane Andrew taught Florida in 1992, it only takes one hurricane to make it a bad season. I urge all Floridians to go to www.FloridaDisaster.org today and create a family disaster preparedness plan.”
In addition, all students, teachers and parents can find educational information and free downloadable materials at www.KidsGetAPlan.com.