Published: 2017-05-25 11:29:00
Updated: 2017-05-25 11:50:31
Posted May 25
Raleigh, N.C. — Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday there is a 45 percent chance of an "above-normal" Atlantic hurricane season in 2017.
Forecasters predicted a 70 percent chance of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), with five to nine of those becoming hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher).
Two to four of the hurricanes could become major storms (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher), forecasters said. A so-called "normal" season produces 12 named storms, with six of those becoming hurricanes.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. NOAA said it will update its forecast in early August, just prior to the peak of the Atlantic season.
Although the Atlantic season doesn't officially begin until next week, there has already been activity in the tropics this year. Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April, although it didn't do any major damage.
“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, Gov. Roy Cooper and other state officials urged North Carolinians to be prepared for tropical systems.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said people need to make plans before a hurricane hits. Those plans should include evacuation routes, shelter locations and emergency contacts that are shared with entire families.
"Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives," acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr. said in a statement.
"Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens."
The 2016 season was the first above-average Atlantic season since 2012. It produced 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major storms. The strongest of the 2016 storms was Hurricane Matthew, which was responsible for at least 600 deaths as it moved through parts of Haiti, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Once Matthew reached the U.S., it brought devastating flooding to North Carolina and South Carolina after making landfall near Myrtle Beach on Oct. 8.
The hurricane dumped more than a foot of rain 100 miles inland, swelling streams and rivers to levels above what Hurricane Floyd produced in 1999.
Some of the hardest hit counties were Cumberland, Robeson, Wayne, Johnston, Harnett, Lenoir, Nash and Edgecombe. At least 26 North Carolinians died.