Caribbean alert: Expect “above normal” hurricane season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting another “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season with 13 to 20 total named storms.

NOAA predicts that six to ten of those storms were likely to become hurricanes, with wind speeds of 74 mph or higher. Likewise, the agency predicts that about 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) may be experienced.

However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

“Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.

Hurricanes largely form in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as temperatures continue to warm, then move west.

NOAA said the most hurricane-prone month is September, with as many major hurricane landfalls as August and October combined.

With June 1st, marking the official start of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, the Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA) is urging the region to get prepared for possible storms.

“Preparedness is absolutely critical. Forecast for each year functions as a guide, however, CDEMA always make the point that it can take only one system to have a devastating impact on any of the CARICOM states,” said Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director of CDEMA.

The first tropical storm for this year, Ana, already formed a few weeks ago. The next named storm this season will be Bill.

Meanwhile, the World Meteorological Organization has decided to make some major changes when it comes to naming tropical cyclones during hurricane season.

WMO’s Hurricane Committee announced the Greek alphabet will no longer be used to name tropical cyclones.

“There can be too much focus on the use of Greek alphabet names and not the actual impacts from the storm. This can greatly detract from the needed impact and safety messaging and there is confusion with some Greek alphabet names when they are translated into other languages used within the Region.”

The Greek alphabet was used whenever the annual list of tropical cyclone names was exhausted for the year before the end of hurricane season – like in 2005 and in last year’s hyperactive season.

Atlantic hurricane season extends through November 30.