Weather

Sunday marks start of 2014 hurricane season

Posted June 1, 2014

— Sunday marks the start of the 2014 hurricane season. Although a slower-than-usual season is expected this year, residents are still urged to take precautions.

Officials expect about eight to 13 named tropical storms and three to six hurricanes. One or two major hurricanes with winds over 110 miles per hour are forecast.

Cooler temperatures on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean compared with recent years will lower the probability of hurricane formation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

WRAL Stormtracker goes inside a hurricane How a hurricane works

Forecasters got it wrong last year when they predicted an unusually busy hurricane season. There were 13 named storms and two hurricanes, Umberto and Ingrid, both of which were Category 1, the lowest on the scale that measures hurricanes by wind speed. There were no major hurricanes.

In 2012, storm surge was devastating to the New York area when Superstorm Sandy slammed the East coast, killing 147 people and causing $50 billion in damage. Sandy lost hurricane status when it made landfall in New Jersey.

A new mapping tool this year will keep coastal residents updated on the storm surge threat, using tides and currents to predict how high the surge might be and where exactly it will hit, said Dr. Holly Bamford, director of NOAA's National Ocean Service.

"Storm surge can be deadly," Bamford said. "It only takes six inches of fast-moving water to knock an adult over."

Hurricane and flags WRAL Hurricane Center with interactive tracker

The map will be activated when a hurricane or tropical storm watch is announced, or about 48 hours before the onset of tropical storm force winds, and updated along with National Weather Service advisories every six hours.

The Atlantic hurricane season goes through cycles of high and low activity about every 25 to 40 years based on large scale climatic patterns. Since 1995, an average season has 15 named tropical storms, eight hurricanes and about four major storms.

The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the U.S. was when Wilma came ashore in 2005, an eight-year stretch that is the longest on record.

During the six-month season, forecasters name tropical storms when top winds reach 39 mph; hurricanes have maximum winds of at least 74 mph.

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