Florida’s lucky streak could be coming to an end.
In a mid-season update to their Atlantic hurricane projection, forecasters Thursday called for a higher chance of more storms with the fizzling of an intense El Niño and additional hurricane-conducive conditions shaping up. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it now puts the chances of a season that is either normal or above normal in the number of storms at 85 percent. That means the region could get up to 12 to 17 named storms and as many as four to eight hurricanes. Two to four could intensify to major storms, forecasters said.
The last time a hurricane struck Florida was in 2005, when Wilma landed near Naples and plowed a path across the state.
Before the season started, forecasters predicted a slower, below-average season, with just 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes.
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Forecasters said the season is shaping up to be more challenging to predict because of competing conditions. With the waning El Niño, NOAA’s lead forecaster Gerry Bell said winds that help weaken storms — including upper-level wind shear and trade winds over the central tropical Atlantic — will likely weaken. However, cooler ocean temperatures and stronger wind shear fanning across the Caribbean should help keep the region from churning up a high number of storms.
Those conditions, he said, could also prevent a strong La Niña, a cool weather pattern that normally inhibits storms and which NOAA forecasters said Thursday would likely form during the season.
“Given these competing conditions, La Niña, if it develops, will most likely be weak and have little impact on the hurricane season,” he said.
So far, the Atlantic season has produced five named storms. Four made landfall, including Tropical Storm Colin, which came ashore in Florida’s Big Bend in early June.
The season now moves into its busiest time, when the most frequent and intense storms have traditionally occurred. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.