Texans, especially those who live in the southern region of the state, are no stranger to hurricanes. Nestled in the Gulf of Mexico, Texas is often susceptible to hurricanes and the damage that they bring. According to David Roth of the Weather Prediction Center, a hurricane lands on Texas’ coastline around three times every four years. In 2017, a Category 4 hurricane called Hurricane Harvey ravished through southern Texas, causing flooding in thousands of homes and millions of dollars in damage.
Despite Hurricane Harvey’s wreckage, Texans across the state rallied together and helped rebuild the areas that were affected by the tropical storm. After experiencing the worst hurricane in recent Texan history, it is important for those who live in the southern part of the Brazos River basin to pay attention to the Atlantic hurricane season outlook each year.
According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, the Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, with August and September being its peak season. While hurricanes can occur outside of these dates, the month of September is the most active for the Atlantic region. Both the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project and the Weather Company, an IBM business, have recently predicted that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will be “be more active than usual.”
Based on a 30-year average, the Atlantic hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes annually. Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company, predicts 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach, calls for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. Both group’s predictions determine that the 2020 season will be exponentially more active than the season’s usual average.
For an Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone to reach tropical storm status and be named, it must reach at least 39 mph winds. To be labeled as a major hurricane, a tropical storm must be categorized as a Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the National Hurricane Center, is a “one to five rating based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed and estimates potential property damage.” Category 3 hurricanes have sustained winds of 111–129 mph.
"We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean," Klotzbach said in an article for the Weather Channel. "As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted."
Before 2017, the U.S. was in a 10-year period of record low number of hurricane landfalls. According to Alex Lamers, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, only seven hurricanes hit landfall on the United States between 2006 and 2015. Then, seven named storms hit the U.S. coast in 2017, including Hurricane Harvey. 2018 had four named storms hit the U.S. coastline with Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael occurring within a month of each other. Then, according to the Weather Channel, 2019 tied for the fourth most-active season on record with 18 named storms.
But what does the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season forecast and recent increase in named storms mean for Texans? It means that they should be prepared now, as one or more of the 18 predicted storms could make landfall on the state of Texas in 2020. Even if no hurricanes hit the coast of Texas this year, it is always better to be prepared and informed.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the most effective way to prepare for a hurricane is to “know your area’s risk of hurricanes and sign up for your community’s warning system.” Check in daily with local news sources to stay informed of your area’s risk of hurricanes. To find local emergency alert systems, click here.
A safety procedure that you can practice today is to become familiar with your evacuation zone and route. By knowing your evacuation route, you can create an evacuation plan with your family. Always have at least three days’ worth of emergency supplies packed in case you and your family need to evacuate quickly. You can protect your property by installing hurricane shutters and check valves to prevent plumbing backups.
To learn more about how you and your family can prepare in advance for hurricanes, click here.