Hurricane

Forecasters give first look into the 2019 hurricane season and make their prediction

This is what Mexico Beach looks like one week after Michael hit

The coastal town of Mexico Beach was one of the most affected areas after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle last Wednesday. This is what it looks like from the air.
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The coastal town of Mexico Beach was one of the most affected areas after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle last Wednesday. This is what it looks like from the air.

The 2019 hurricane season will be quieter than normal, with 13 named storms predicted, five turning into hurricanes and two growing into major hurricanes, according to scientists at Colorado State University.

The Colorado school’s Department of Atmospheric Science, led by meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, made its announcement Thursday morning.

The 13-storm figure represents a dip from 2018, when 15 named storms developed in the Atlantic and eight of them turned into hurricanes, including two major storms.

One of them, Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 beast in October, blasted the Florida Panhandle. Michael’s 155 mph winds flattened parts of Mexico Beach.

Another, Hurricane Florence in September, broke flood records in the Carolinas and caused about $25 billion in damage. Florence killed an estimated 59 people as it tore through North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as affecting Virginia.

The reason Colorado State researchers are feeling a bit optimistic — at this early date — about the 2019 season is that the water-warming El Niño is forecast to develop this summer in the Atlantic, and that could help suppress some storms’ growth.

Current sea temperatures also factored in the initial forecast, The Washington Post reported. The tropical Atlantic is slightly cooler than normal, and the far North Atlantic and subtropical Atlantic is warmer than normal for this time of year. These conditions mirror less active seasons, experts say, given that more powerful hurricanes tend to form in the deep tropics.

But do note, hurricane season is still two months away. It starts June 1.

So conditions could change and the Colorado group’s next forecast on June 4, followed by forecasts in the first weeks of July and August, are more predictive.

The fourth most powerful hurricane to slam the U.S. on record knocked a train off its tracks in Panama City, razed much of Mexico Beach and left the state’s largest mental hospital cut off from emergency crews.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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