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Forecasters urge coastal residents to prepare now as Atlantic hurricane season starts

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer
June 01, 2019, 4:12:14 PM EDT

Hurricane Michael's eye from ISS

Hurricane Michael's eyewall was captured by astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) on Oct. 10, 2018 while they passed over the storm. (NASA)

After the official start of Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters are urging those living along the coast to prepare for a near- to slightly above-normal season.

AccuWeather’s 2019 predictions have not changed since the initial forecast was released on April 3.

Forecasters continue to call for 12 to 14 tropical cyclones this season.

Of those, five to seven are predicted to become hurricanes and two to four are predicted to become major hurricanes.

Additionally, it’s believed that the United States may endure two to four impacts — though it’s too soon to say where these might take place.

With less than two weeks until the official start of the season, a subtropical storm spun up southwest of Bermuda on Monday and was given the first name on the Atlantic list for 2019, Andrea.

Andrea was no longer considered an organized tropical system by Tuesday afternoon.

2019 Atlantic hurricane season

While Andrea steered clear of the U.S., anyone living near the coast should be prepared to act quickly if and when more activity fires up.

AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski has been warning since early April that the Gulf of Mexico, as well as areas east of Bermuda and off the southeastern coast of the U.S. need to be watched closely for early season development due to water temperatures running above normal.

AccuWeather's 2019 Atlantic hurricane season forecast
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“Whether or not this will be an impactful year for the United States is a very tough question to answer this early in the season, because all it takes is one hurricane to hit a community to make a devastating impact," he said.

“Statistically, we’re still forecasting roughly two to four impacts to the United States. We have no idea at this point what the intensity of those particular events will be.”

In the wake of Harvey in 2017 and Florence in 2018, it’s clear that the U.S. does not need to be hit by a powerful hurricane in order to sustain devastating damage, he said.

The tropical track density map above was created by analyzing analog years, which are past years that have weather patterns similar to current and projected weather patterns. Analog years are often used to predict future trends and impacts during a hurricane season.

This image shows the average track density for tropical systems in the Atlantic between 1988 and 2018. 

“Inland flooding is by far a really big concern that we have. If we have just a weak tropical storm that gets struck over a coastal area, or near a coastal area, there could be devastating flooding,” he said.

As the season nears, forecasters are urging residents on and near the coast to have a plan in place in case the worst occurs.

“[The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] NOAA just did a statistical analysis and asked the question: Do you have a disaster plan in place? Only 16% of respondents said they actually had one,” Kottlowski said.

“These include people who live along the Gulf coast and the Atlantic. If you live within 50 miles of the coast, you should be prepared to be hit by a Michael or a Florence or a Harvey. Use those as examples,” he said.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center released its Atlantic hurricane season forecast on Thursday morning. The prediction says a near-normal hurricane season is most likely in 2019.

NOAA expects nine to 15 named tropical storms, four to eight hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes, with a 70% confidence in these ranges.

An average Atlantic hurricane season yields 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

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