Hurricane season opens
Wednesday marked the start of hurricane season and, with an active season predicted this year, local officials are asking residents to be prepared.
This week weather forecasters at Colorado State University released their third seasonal outlook on the Atlantic Ocean’s hurricane activity and landfall strike probability for 2011. CSU has published the forecasts as part of the Tropical Meteorology Project for more than two dozen years.
The newest forecast predicts 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes — Category 3, 4 or 5. There is a 71 percent chance that a hurricane will make landfall in Florida and a 34 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall.
“We are predicting an active hurricane season,” Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at CSU and the co-author of the report, said.
An average season consists of 11-12 named storms, about six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Hurricane season runs from June 1-Dec. 1.
With an active season predicted, preparedness is key.
“We encourage everybody to have a plan,” Cape Coral Fire Chief Bill Van Helden said. “Have a plan, and when the time comes, exercise that plan.”
“People need to realize that hurricane season is starting now and now is the time to have a plan in place,” he said. “Have a kit and know what you’re going to do — be ready for hurricane season.”
Each household should have five to seven days worth of provisions — food, water and medications — for each person. Keep all important paperwork, or copies, in a container that can be taken with you in the case of evacuation.
“I encourage everybody in Cape Coral to have flood insurance,” he said. “Nothing will take the place of flood insurance in the case of an event.”
Having a tarp on hand may help prevent mold after the storm. If a roof is damaged in a storm, it may take a while before it can be fixed. Covering the damage with a tarp helps prevent rain and other elements from getting in.
One thing that residents need to be aware of is the change to the storm surge maps. Van Helden said experts have determined that the Gulf is a little higher and the properties in the Cape are a little lower than once thought.
“The bottom line is the risk of storm surge has increased due to some recent studies,” he said.
All areas south of Cape Coral Parkway and some areas north of that road are now under threat of storm surge in a Category 1 storm. Prior to this, it would was thought a Category 2 storm would create the threat of storm surge.
Surge from a Category 2 could now affect Kismet Parkway on south.
“The rise of storm surge has been redefined,” Van Helden said.
He added that the changes could call for evacuations never seen before.
“They’ll be at a greater frequency,” Van Helden said.
During 2010, there were 19 named stores, 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes, according to Klotzbach. Despite no hurricanes making landfall, last year tied for second place as one of the most active seasons for the Atlantic Ocean Basin — there also were 12 hurricanes recorded in 1969.
The most active season on record was 2005 with 15 hurricanes.
“The tropical Atlantic is very conducive to an active season,” he said.
“The waters in the tropical Atlantic are very warm, pressures are low and the (wind) sheer is below average,” Klotzbach said. “All those are typically associated with an active season.”
Researchers are also uncertain about the presence of El Nino this summer and fall, which can result in formation of fewer storms in the Atlantic.
“We don’t think we’ll see that, but it’s still a possibility,” he said.
Each season the Tropical Meteorology Project releases a forecast for the Atlantic Ocean Basin on Dec. 8, April 6, June 1 and Aug. 3 — four total. This year’s April forecast mirrored the newest forecast, while both were scaled-back from the first one released in December.
In the first forecast, CSU researchers predicted 17 named storms.
The Breeze Newspapers Hurricane Guide may be found here on our website, cape-coral-daily-breeze.com under specials. The book may be picked up at our office at 2510 Del Prado Boulevard.
The Lee County guide may be found at www.leeeoc.com . The site offers links on how to put together an emergency plan, for a hurricane kit supply checklist and for help through the process.
Those without Internet can pick up Lee County’s All Hazards Guide at post offices, libraries and county buildings, including the Emergency Operations Center.