Expect more active hurricane season in 2016

By Zachary Fitzgerald zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

Researchers at Colorado State University predict average hurricane activity in 2016 in the Atlantic basin, according to a report.
Hurricane season runs June 1-Nov. 30. Colorado State’s Department of Atmospheric Science released its 33rd annual Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Forecast April 14. Philip J. Klotzbach issued the report with assistance from William M. Gray.
Gray, 86, a pioneer in hurricane forecasting, died Saturday in Fort Collins, Colorado, The Denver Post and Associated Press reported. Klotzbach, Gray's longtime assistant, said Gray began researching hurricanes in 1984, long before national hurricane forecasters began publishing their forecasts.
Colorado State researchers anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean, the university’s annual report said.
“As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” the report stated.
The report estimated that 2016 will have five hurricanes, 12 named storms, 50 named storm days, 20 hurricane days, two major hurricanes of Category 3 or stronger, and four major hurricane days.
Information obtained through March 2016 indicates that the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will have activity near the median 1981-2010 season, the report said.
St. Mary Parish hasn’t received a direct hit from a hurricane since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew caused severe wind damage, said Parish Emergency Preparedness Director Duval Arthur. Since that time, the parish received a partial hit from Hurricane Gustav in 2008; flooding from Hurricane Ike, also in 2008; and Hurricane Rita in 2005, Arthur said.
The currently weakening El Niño weather is likely to transition to either neutral or La Niña conditions by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, the Colorado State report said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Roger Erickson said El Niño caused fewer storms during the 2015 season. The past several hurricane seasons “have been quieter than normal,” he said.
El Niño occurs when the water temperature in the Pacific Ocean near the equator is above normal, while La Niña takes place when the temperature is below normal, Erickson said. A neutral season occurs when the temperature is normal, he said.
The 2016 season will be closer to “near normal” and “a lot busier than we’ve seen,” Erickson said.
“I think it’s going to be a season to be watching for things,” Erickson said. “Hopefully, nothing will happen to us locally in St. Mary Parish. … But if you’re looking at risk chances, this is a higher risk season than the last several.”
This year, forecasters expect El Niño to be gone by the “heart of the hurricane season” in August and September, which should make the Atlantic hurricane season more active than the past few years, Erickson said.
Erickson encouraged all residents to be prepared before the June 1 start to hurricane season and have “a game plan” of where to go and what to bring if a storm hits the area.

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