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Hurricane season fizzles to an end

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

A slow hurricane season that produces well under the predicted number and severity of storms is a reason to celebrate, but even the most experienced Floridians can sometimes get complacent when living in an area that is lucky enough to avoid a direct hit for an extended period of time.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said therein lies the real danger of concluding a mild hurricane season.

“The worry after a season like this one is that people will get complacent and we don’t ever want to see that happen,” said Speciale. “While we escaped the serious storms this year, other parts of the world did not and that should be a reminder to everyone that it only takes one.”

The 2013 season — June 1 to Nov. 30 — was expected to be a higher than average storm season and kicked off with Tropical Storm Andrea that brushed Anna Maria Island with outer bands almost a year to the day that Tropical Storm Debby did the same in 2012.

Debby’s affects were more severe than Andrea for islanders, sea turtles and shorebirds, although Andrea did claim a couple of sea turtle nests and caused half of the Bradenton Beach Historic Street Pier to be closed.

Fortunately, that was the extent of the 2013 season that is only the third below average hurricane season in the past two decades, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The season ended Nov. 30 with only two hurricanes compared to the average of six. It is the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982.

Neither hurricane became a major storm, which is defined to be a Category 3 or higher, and the average hurricane season produces three major storms.

Experts cite several reasons for the slow season, including colder water edging southeastward in the Atlantic Ocean, above normal wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico and higher concentrations of dust being blown off the African continent.

Andrea was the only storm to make a U.S. landfall. It produced heavy rains and wind in the Florida panhandle and is blamed for at least one death.

Predictions for the 2013 season were for 18 total storms, nine hurricanes and six major storms, a far cry from 2012 which tied with 2010, 1995 and 1887 as the third most active season since record keeping began in 1851.

As for the 2014 hurricane season that begins June 1? Predictions aren’t expected until late spring, but the Farmer’s Almanac indicates a mild storm season following a harsh winter, which is what the almanac predicts for the coming winter months.

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