Atlantic hurricane season begins early, amid COVID-19 concerns

Arthur stirred up more than wind and rain.

The first tropical storm of the 2020 Atlantic season — forecast to stay off the southeast coast and track northeast out to sea —stirred up concern for dealing with disaster and coping with hurricanes amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management is expected this month to release guidance on how local government might want to handle storms.

Other recommendations, mentioned during an April meeting of the state’s Re-Open Florida Task Force, might include sheltering evacuees in hotels instead of schools or other public buildings.

“Regarding COVID-19, the unique issues of this public health crisis may require emergency management officials to consider stay-at-home orders instead of evacuating people in a storm’s path,” reads the task force’s report to the governor. “If evacuations are required, transportation network companies, such as Uber and Lyft, may be considered in addition to buses to assist in evacuations. Further, utilizing additional school locations to add capacity to allow for greater social distancing as well as hotels may be considered in addition to current evacuation centers.

The report also notes the importance of creating emergency plans for families and continuity plans for businesses, as well as setting aside cloth face coverings.

Meteorologists with AccuWeather, a leading weather forecast service, predicted 14-18 tropical storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Seven to nine storms are forecast to become hurricanes, and two to four are predicted to strengthen into major hurricanes.

Another early forecast, from Colorado State University researchers in April, predicted “an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States and in the Caribbean.”

The CSU forecast was for 16 named storms this season — the average is 12.1.

Also, according to CSU, the probability of at least one major hurricane — a storm of Category 3 or higher — making landfall on the U.S. continental coastline is 69%. The average for the last century is 52%.

A forecast from the federal government, prepared by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, will be released May 21.

The 2019 season produced 18 named storms, including six hurricanes of which three were major.

Last year marked the fourth consecutive above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. The only other period on record that produced four consecutive above-normal seasons was 1998-2001.

 

2020 Storm Avengers series

Look in the May 27 issue for the first installment of The Islander’s 2020 Storm Avengers series, with information about preparing for hurricane season.

2020 storm names

Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.

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