Hurricanes:Season Outlook & Preparedness Week by Lyndsay Tapases

Yesterday, NOAA released it's outlook for the upcoming 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins on June 1st. Ironically, the forecast is for a less active season compared to recent years. I say ironically because we have already had one pre-season Tropical Storm (Alberto) that formed last weekend, and a second, Beryl, may be forming as we speak. But more on that in a few minutes.

NOAA's forecast calls for a 70% chance of seeing 9-15 Tropical Storms, 4-8 Hurricanes, and 1-3 Major Hurricanes. For comparison, last year in 2011 we saw 19 Tropical Storms, 7 Hurricanes, and 4 Major Hurricanes. Average is 12, 6, and 3, respectively.{}NOAA says that two of the main factors that would contribute to the below average season would be 1) strong wind shear (which is changing of wind speed and direction with height, unfavorable for hurricane development) and 2) cooler sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic.{}Next week, May 27-June 4 is national Hurricane Preparedness Week. In Virginia, we will be observing this with a sales tax holiday. Beginning Friday and lasting for the next week, you won't have to pay sales tax on any hurricane preparedness items, including batteries, flashlights, and two-way radios. Preparing for a storm ahead of time is key, and like many Virginia residents found out last summer with Irene, can make a huge difference in how your family handles an emergency storm situation. You can find out more information on the Virginia sales tax holiday here.So, about this Beryl character. Beryl would be the name given to the next Tropical Storm of the season, if it does indeed take on tropical characteristics. Right now, the National Hurricane Center has given the low-pressure system in the Caribbean a 70% chance of becoming a Tropical Cyclone within the next 48 hours. Right now the storm is located over the Bahamas, and will be moving north into the warm Gulf stream off the east coast. Computer forecast models have this storm heading north, then actually making a U-turn and heading back south right off the coast of Myrtle Beach. This means that those heading to any North or South Carolina beaches this weekend may be faced with clouds, showers, and perhaps some high surf and rip currents due to on-shore winds. However, most of the rain looks like it is going to stay to the south of Virginia Beach.{}So, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Dr. Rick Knabb (New Director of National Hurricane Center) reports that only two seasons on record have recorded two tropical storms BEFORE the start of the season- 1908 and 1887. So yes, it would be very rare and unusual. Stay tuned!{}{}