Tuscaloosa County may be some 250 miles north of the Alabama Gulf Coast but tropical systems that make landfall and move inland can impact West Alabama with tornadoes, torrential rainfall, flooding and flash flooding. That is why the forecast released today for the 2020 season beginning June 1st is important.

NOAA is forecasting a 60-percent chance of an above average hurricane season. The forecast calls for 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes. An average hurricane season characteristically produces 12 named storms. Six of those typically become hurricanes and of those, three can become major hurricanes, category 3 or higher.

National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham is the former lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service Field Office in Birmingham. Graham cautions, “There is no correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes that form and landfalls in the U.S. A quiet season can still produce a strong hurricane that makes landfall. That’s why residents should prepare each year, no matter the forecast.”

The 1992 hurricane season is a classic example of why you need to be prepared regardless of the seasonal forecast and whether you are on the coast or inland.

That year only six named storms and one subtropical storm happened. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew. The category 4 storm caused the deaths of 17 people in Alabama, 6 of whom drowned offshore. Andrew also spawned at least 28 tornadoes along the Gulf Coast and inland, especially in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. In total, Andrew left 65 dead and caused $27.3 billion in damage.

Then there are years that are unusually active, above normal, but no major system makes landfall misleading people into believe the forecast was a bust.

As Graham warns, “It only takes one hurricane to make landfall along the Central Gulf Coast for the season to be determined as a bad one”.

 

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