The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1st, and it’s going to be a doozy. “Hurricane season is off to a busy start!” the National Hurricane Center tweeted as it forecast an 80 percent chance of a tropical depression forming over the Bay of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico this week.
There’s a 60 percent chance that this will be a worse-than-normal hurricane season, NOAA forecast last week. That could look like up to 19 named storms, including up to six major hurricanes. An average hurricane season is generally made up of around 12 named storms, with three major hurricanes.
There’s a 60 percent chance that this will be a worse-than-normal hurricane season
2020, of course, has been anything but normal. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make any unfavorable weather event, from heat waves to hurricanes, much tougher to prepare for and respond to.
“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more,” Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA said in a statement when NOAA made its forecast for the season on May 24th. “With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now.”
Congratulations you have successfully made it to the end of May. Welcome to Jumanji Level 6. Hurricane Season
— Jak (@crownme_kay95) May 31, 2020
More than 60 percent of 70 coastal counties surveyed by the AP were still figuring out their hurricane shelter plans in late May, the wire service reported yesterday. Shelters and evacuation measures will need to be reimagined to limit the potential spread of disease in typically tightly packed, enclosed places. That will be tough on health care facilities, emergency response systems, and government budgets that have already been stretched almost to their limits during the pandemic, Vox reported. States have also depended on a cohort of older volunteers, and their ranks will shrink almost in half this year as people more susceptible to COVID-19 stay home, according to The New York Times.
Although hurricane season technically just started, a couple storms decided to crash the party early. Two storms earned their names, Arthur and Bertha, last month, which happens when sustained wind speeds reach 39 mph.
Not only are some hurricanes arriving early, overall they’ve also gotten stronger over the past 40 years, a new NOAA study confirmed in May. Hurricanes gain strength from heat energy, and there’s more of that to fuel them because of climate change. Warmer water leads to more moisture in the air and more intense hurricanes as a result.