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Peak hurricane season point passes with little turbulence

By Staff | Sep 16, 2011

This abnormally busy hurricane season has gratefully spared Southwest Florida residents from much worry let alone an actual hurricane.

But with 12 weeks left in the season, it’s not time to applaud just yet.

As the Sept. 10 historic hurricane season peak passed Saturday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management issued a warning to stay prepared throughout the entire season, which ends Nov. 30.

The National Hurricane Center has already identified 13 named tropical storms this season, two of which reached hurricane status. At least three more storms are expected.

“While we are fortunate that Florida has not suffered any major damage due to storms so far this season, we still have 12 more weeks before hurricane season officially ends,” said Bryan Koon, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Florida is the hurricane capital of the United States with more hurricane landfalls than any other state.

If the Colorado State University forecast issued by Phil Klotzbach and William Gray is correct, however, most of the danger has already passed. The CSO projection called for 16 named tropical storms this year in the Atlantic basin, which includes Boca Grande and all of Southwest Florida.

For the village of Boca Grande, odds were greatly increased for storm impact this season by the CSU forecast. The probability of a hurricane impact in Lee County is 71.3 percent this year compared with 51 percent annually over the last 27 seasons and the possibility of a major hurricane slamming Boca Grande was increased from 21 percent annually to 33.8 percent this season.

“We expect that anomalously warm tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures, combined with neutral tropical Pacific sea-surface temperatures, will contribute to an active season,” said Klotzbach.

The probability for a major Cat 3 or greater hurricane hitting somewhere in the peninsula of Florida, including Boca Grande, is 48 percent this season compared with the 31 percent odds established over the last century.

Nine storms were predicted to become hurricanes with sustained winds reaching at least 74 mph. Five were expected to be major hurricanes – Categories 3 or above – with maximum wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.

The CSU forecast has been correct 72 percent of the time forecasting above- or below-average seasons in 21 of 29 years. Since 1950, the average Atlantic hurricane season has produced 10 named storms with six becoming hurricanes, including two major events of Cat 3 or greater.

Koon said proper planning is still crucial for individuals, families and businesses. Special preparations should be made for family members who are elderly, disabled or have special needs, as well as for family pets, he said.

“It is extremely important for Florida’s residents to heed the call for disaster preparedness,” said David Halstead, FDEM deputy director. “Every effort will be made to assist Florida’s residents after a disaster, however, depending on the level of disaster, first responders and other state and local response teams may not be able to aid everyone affected by the storm immediately.”

Halstead advises having at least three days worth of necessary provisions in case of a tropical storm or hurricane strike.