By Glynn Cosker
The year 2020 will forever be remembered in the history books as a world-changing year with COVID-19’s destruction of millions of lives. However, 2020 brought another type of destruction with a record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season that saw 30 named storms, 11 of which made landfall in the United States.
Experts believe that 2021 will bring another busy Atlantic hurricane season, but it won’t be quite as busy as 2020.
NOAA Predictions for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States is likely to see an above-average hurricane season in the Atlantic this year. The agency has forecast 13 to 20 named storms for the 2021Atlantic hurricane season and predicts that six to 10 of those storms will become hurricanes. Ultimately, NOAA believes that three to five of their predicted hurricanes will likely be Category 3, 4 or 5.
“Based on our current data and analysis, we do not expect a 2021 hurricane season to be as active as 2020. However, we do update our seasonal outlook in August, as we do each year before we move into the peak of the hurricane season,” Matthew Rosencrans, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, told NPR. NOAA partly bases its prediction on increased atmospheric disturbances forming off the coast of Africa and warmer ocean temperatures, which provide more fuel for storms.
As the map below illustrates, hurricanes in 2020 affected many states – not just along their coastlines, but also when each storm’s remnants made their way inland.
By Master0Garfield – Created using WikiProject Tropical cyclones/Tracks. The background image is from NASA. The tracking data is from the National Hurricane Center’s Atlantic hurricane database. Public Domain.
At Least One Named Tropical System Has Emerged Early in the Past 6 Years
The official first day of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1, but at least one named tropical system has emerged prior to that date each year over the past six years. Subsequently, this year, the National Hurricane Center proactively provided some “tropical outlook” information on May 15.
Regardless of whether the 2021 hurricane season brings us the most storms or the least storms – one thing is certain: It doesn’t matter. Preparedness is key because any hurricane (from Category 1 to Category 5) is potentially fatal, especially for those in an evacuation zone.
Hurricanes: Preparedness Is Vital
Dr. Christopher Reynolds, Dean of Academic Outreach and Program Development at American Military University (AMU), believes that preparedness – at all levels – is important to a favorable outcome as the 2021 hurricane season approaches.
“Both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are prone to hurricanes and it is critical that local, state and federal governments prepare their communities and population to deal with the threat,” states Dr. Reynolds. “This preparedness also extends to each individual household, too. It begins at home by developing an emergency plan that includes knowing whether one resides in a hurricane evacuation zone and knowing the community’s evacuation routes and shelter locations.”
The Importance of a ‘Go-Bag’
That is solid advice, and Dr. Reynolds knows a thing or two about hurricanes. His emergency management experience includes on-the-ground disaster management during and after Hurricane Elena (1985), Hurricane Andrew (1992), Hurricane Opal (1995) and Hurricane Katrina (2005). Many people survived those deadly storms due to having a “go-bag.”
“A ‘go-bag’ includes important papers, medications, clothing and hygiene items,” explains Dr. Reynolds. “It is also important to assure vehicles have a full tank of gasoline and individuals have enough drinking water and non-perishable food to last up to 72 hours.”
Further guidance on how to prepare for a hurricane can be found at ready.gov/hurricanes.