The Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30. There is no perfect formula for predicting weather, but experts study patterns and use historic data to make general hurricane forecasts. The best weather scientists in the country, Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project team, begin making predictions as early as January. A more solid analysis comes together in April and May. Sometime in May, the National Hurricane Center will release its own predictions for the 2019 hurricane season.
Expert Hurricane Predictions
For 2019, the Colorado State team expects slightly below-normal activity due to lower surface temperatures in the ocean and weak El Niño activity. During a weak El Niño, storms die down before they have the opportunity to reach hurricane strengths. The university predicts Louisiana has a 28 percent chance of experiencing a this year, and an 11 percent chance of a major hurricane.
The CSU Team believes 2019 will see 13 named storms, including five that reach hurricane strength. Two of these predicted hurricanes may be a Category 3 or higher. Classifications over Category 3 are considered major storms, but the designation can be misleading. While not considered a “major storm” in 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused major damage totaling more than $65 billion and is the fourth costliest Atlantic storm to date.
Colorado State University also provides predictions parish-by-parish based on weather data collected throughout 2018 and 2019. You can look up your parish here.
The probability of a hurricane making landfall differs by parish. In coastal region 3, the probability is estimated at 30 percent, with a 15 percent chance of an intense hurricane making landfall. This region includes Assumption, Lafourche, St. James, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, Terrebonne Parishes and, for CSU, Orleans and Jefferson.
Where do Hurricanes Originate?
Many of the hurricanes formed in the Atlantic that make landfall in North and Central America begin in Africa, near the coast of Cape Verde. Different types of air clashing causes thunderstorm clusters, which can turn into tropical cyclones as they move west toward North America. A cyclone becomes a named tropical storm once it has 39 mph sustained winds. If those winds hold steady at 74 mph or above, it becomes a hurricane.
Memorable Cape Verde storms include Hurricanes Andrew (1992) and Sandy (2012).
Not all Atlantic hurricanes begin near Africa. Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, formed from a tropical depression over the Bahamas. The warm water of the Gulf of Mexico fed the storm and it picked up intensity. Katrina made landfall in Louisiana as a Category 4 storm, with winds of 127 mph.
The only difference between a typhoon and a hurricane is where the storm occurs. If a storm with winds over 74 mph occurs in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, it’s called a typhoon. If the storm occurs in the Atlantic, it’s known as a hurricane.
Hurricanes are assigned categories from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most severe. The National Weather Service outlines what kind of destruction and safety concerns to expect from each category of storm.
Colorado State makes predictions using historic hurricane data from 1856-2008. During this period, Texas saw the most hurricanes make landfall, followed by Louisiana. Most of these storms were only classified as Category 1 when they hit land. Louisiana’s storm count stands at: 21 Category 1 hurricanes, 3 Category 4 hurricanes and one Category 5 storm.
Preparing for a Hurricane
The National Hurricane Center has tips for preparing for a hurricane, and it’s best to make sure you’re ready for the season, whatever the forecast. No matter how many hurricanes occur during a given season, it only takes one in your area to threaten your property and safety.
Remember, homeowners and renters insurance don’t cover flood damage. While your policy likely covers wind damage, you may need a separate rider for hurricane coverage. If you’re confused about what your policy covers, if you think you’re underinsured, or if you need a flood insurance policy, get in touch with a local agent today, before hurricane season starts.