East Pacific ocean temps shift from El Nino to La Nina.

The link between the Pacific El Nino/La Nina water temps and US landfalling hurricanes was first described in the American Meteorological Society Bulletin in 1996 in an article by Dr. James J. O’Brien at Florida State University. Since then much attention has been given to the east Pacific water temperatures, especially during the Atlantic hurricane season. The 2009 hurricane season was an El Nino year with nine Atlantic tropical storms, only one of which reached hurricane status. It was a powerful category 4 El Verde storm that curved northward before reaching the US coast.

This year the combination of La Nina conditions in the Pacific, plus warmer than average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, is expected cause our number of storms to be double that of 2009. With probabilities of a hurricane striking somewhere on the Atlantic coast from Florida northward around 50%, and the probability from Florida westward along the Gulf coast also around 50%, this is the time to make preparations now for a possible strike. While July is usually a relatively quiet time for storms over our tropical waters, the chance for a hurricane increases dramatically around middle or late August. Northeast Florida got a taste of the disruption storms can cause in 2004 and 2005, and those were only tropical storms! And tropical storm Faye in 2008 showed us that the destruction is not only from wind, but with flooding from incessant tropical downpours.

If you are a new resident of our area, you may have heard that most hurricanes turn and miss us when they reach the Gulf Stream offshore. In 1964, one of them did not turn. It was a category 2 storm that hit us head-on with winds up to 100 mph. For people living along the coast and in low flood-prone areas, it is important to evacuate early. Travel becomes impossible if everyone hits the road at the same time.

There’s an old saying that fits the a hurricane threat, “Expect the worst, hope for the best, and settle for anything in between!”


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