Even as efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy continue, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an "active or extremely active" season for hurricanes that could strike the U.S. Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard this year.
This year's season for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean begins on June 1 and poses a 70% chance of from 7 to 11 hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph, 3 to 6 of which could become major hurricanes with winds above 111 mph, according the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
Keep in mind that with sustained winds of "only" 80 mph, Hurricane Sandy caused over $71 billion in damages and incalculable suffering when it hit land near Brigantine, New Jersey on October 30, 2012.
According to NOAA, the number of storms predicted for this year is well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
"With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time," said acting NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan in a press release. "As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it's important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall."
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NOAA cites a strong west African monsoon season, above average ocean temperatures and the lack of a storm-blocking El Niño as reasons for an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season.
"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."
NOAA reminds us that its hurricane outlook does not project the number of storms that will actually hit land or where those storms are likely to strike. Those forecasts for individual storms are provided by NOAA throughout the six-month long hurricane season.
A new hurricane forecasting supercomputer, set to come online in July, along with real time Doppler radar transmissions to hurricane hunter aircraft are among the new tools NOAA hopes will enable it to provide enhanced storm development and tracking forecasts.
In addition, NOAA reports that the National Weather Service has changed its hurricane warning process to allow warnings to be issued or to remain in effect for storms like Sandy that have become post-tropical, but continue to carry high winds and heavy rains.
"The start of hurricane season is a reminder that our families, businesses and communities need to be ready for the next big storm," said associate FEMA administrator Joe Nimmich. "Preparedness today can make a big difference down the line, so update your family emergency plan and make sure your emergency kit is stocked. Learn more about how you can prepare for hurricane season at www.ready.gov/hurricanes."
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