Today marks the official start of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and across Cayman, people are bracing for what forecasters anticipate will be another above-average season.
Forecasters at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have increased the number of named storms they expect to form in the Atlantic basin this season.
The revised forecast was released on Thursday 20 May. It calls for up to 20 named storms, three more than its initial forecast last month.
In total, NOAA anticipates 13 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes with winds of at least 74 miles per hour.
The prediction also includes three to five major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).
NOAA has said there is a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.
Early start for the 2021 season
However, the season began ahead of the official start, with Subtropical storm Ana forming east of Bermuda on 22 May. Ana eventually dissipated out at sea.
This marks the seventh consecutive year that at least one named storm has appeared before the official start of hurricane season.
Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami released their Atlantic outlook two weeks early, on 15 May, prompted by the rapid development of storms over the past six years.
This is the first time that the NHC has moved up the launch of its tropical storm projection.
Over past years, the first storms and – in some cases – the first hurricanes for the Atlantic basin have developed ahead of the official 1 June start of the season.
Last year’s hurricane season also started early, when Tropical Storm Arthur formed on 16 May east of Florida. The season ended with Iota on 18 Nov.
2020 hurricane season in review
Last year’s record-breaking season saw 30 named storms and 14 hurricanes.
Particularly notable, for the destruction felt in Central America, was Hurricane Eta, which killed over 200 people in November last year.
The storm also impacted Cayman as Tropical Storm Eta.
Flooding and sustained winds of over 60mph caused power outages and downed trees across all three islands.
What’s in a name?
The 2020 season was so active that the list of hurricane names quickly ran out, leading to the use of the Greek alphabet. This year, authorities have decided not to use Greek letters and have created a supplemental list of names instead.
The Atlantic hurricane season extends until 30 Nov., although storms have been recorded beyond that date.
Tune in to Crosstalk this morning to hear from Hazard Management Cayman Islands and Premier Wayne Panton from 7am.
For the latest information on storm activity in the Cayman Islands, as well as information on how to prepare for hurricane season, visit Storm Centre.
Additional reporting from Andrel Harris and Norma Connolly.