Active storm season could see a direct hit on Grand Cayman
Forecasters are predicting an above average hurricane season with as many as 20 named storms and potentially 11 hurricanes anticipated in the Atlantic.
Three hurricanes are expected to make landfall in the US, with meteorologists predicting that “one or two” will hit the Caribbean.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration added its voice to the weight of expert opinion that 2013 will be a busy, potentially dangerous year for storms.
Their prediction, released Thursday, calls for 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms, seven to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and three to six that become major hurricanes.
Based on records that go back to 1950, an average season’s tally is 12 tropical storms, of which six are hurricanes.
Private forecasting firm AccuWeather, which also put out its preseason forecast this month, was more specific predicting 16 storms and eight hurricanes.
Dan Kottlowski, lead hurricane forecaster, said people in the Cayman Islands should be prepared for a higher than average chance of a direct hit this year. He said computer models suggested at least one tropical storm would affect the region early in the season, which begins on 1 June.
“We are saying there will be three storms that will make landfall in the US. We are thinking at least one or two will be coming through the Caribbean this year and we believe the Cayman Islands could be impacted,” he told the Compass.
Gary Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s climate prediction centre, said there were a number of indicators that 2013 would see an active hurricane season.
“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” he said. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa.” Several forecasters have already predicted an above average hurricane season with unusually warm water across the Atlantic and the Caribbean cited as a contributory factor.
Weatherbell’s Joe Bastardi called for 16 named tropical storms, 12 hurricanes, and five hurricanes reaching category three or higher.
In their preseason forecast issued last month, Colorado State University weather gurus Phil Klotzbach and William Gray predicted 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of which would be major.
Mr. Kottlowski, of AccuWeather, added that last year had seen an active season but several storms had veered north of the region and petered out in the open ocean. Wind patterns suggest that this season could be different. “People in the Cayman Islands should be prepared, more so this year than last, for a possible direct impact,” Mr. Kottlowski said.
He added that all indications were that a storm could hit early in the season, with above average rainfall predicted in and around the western Caribbean.
“That information would suggest there would be at least some form of tropical system in the first half of the season,” he said. McCleary Frederick, director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, said the organisation kept a close watch on the forecasts. But he said the predicted number of storms had no impact on preparations for hurricane season. “Our plans are the same regardless of what the forecast is. One storm is all it takes, so we plan for the worst and make sure we are ready.”
He said the hazard management team was well prepared for the start of hurricane season.
A final readiness exercise will take place on 30 May to run through the territory’s response plan, before hurricane season officially begins on 1 June.