We have previously written about the impacts of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Virgin Islands. We covered the immediate aftermath, the lasting destruction and the ongoing process of rebuilding. We remember that Hurricane Maria had wind speeds of 175 mph (Catagory 5) and killed 112 people and Hurricane Irma had 185 mph winds and killed 134. The total financial cost of the storms totaled $156 billion. The suffering during the storm was bad and the lingering suffering after is appalling. The US Government failed its citizens last year and that continues to be the case this year as the rebuilding continues.
The Atlantic (Caribbean) Hurricane season begins June 1 and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued its predictions. It makes us a little nervous. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75% chance that the year’s hurricane season will be near- or above-normal. The forecasters predict a 70% likelihood of between 10 and 16 named storms with tropical force winds, of which between 5 to 9 could become hurricanes, including 1 to 4 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.
The scientific reason for this higher-than-average prediction is a weak El Nino in the Pacific and the average sea temperatures across the Caribbean and the possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The records show that since 1995 these conditions have colluded to create very active seasons.
NOAA has also disclosed the names of the predicted storms, names we hope will not have to retire at the end of the season like Irma and Maria.