As I wrote to you this time last year, Florida was basking in a nearly 10-year long drought of land-falling hurricanes. Well that streak came to an end during the 2016 Atlantic basin hurricane season as Tropical Storm Hermine passed by our coast and then strengthened to a minimal hurricane right before it made landfall in the Panhandle.
Hermine, Colin and Mathew all made close passes to us last year, but fortunately we weathered those storms and came out fairly unscathed. As we enter the 2017 hurricane season we can hope for the best, but we must plan for the worst.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins each year on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. The forecasts for this season are suggesting an average to slightly below average number of storms. The average number of named storms each season is 12, with six of those becoming hurricanes and three of those strengthening to major or Category 3 hurricanes with winds over 111 mph.
Having said that, it is important to remember that it only takes one storm to cause major damage and disrupt our lives. Do you remember Hurricane Andrew in 1992? That was a slow season that only produced seven named storms, but Andrew was the first and deadliest as it slammed into South Florida with winds in excess of 165 mph and caused over $26 billion in damage. We may be lucky and never see an Andrew type storm in our area in our lifetime, but must be prepared for one just in case.
One of the reasons that forecasts are trending toward a quieter season is because of the potential for El Niño to develop this summer. El Niño is the warming of the equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean just west of South America. One main effect that El Niño produces is enhanced wind shear over the tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean. Wind shear makes it difficult for storms to form and can even shear apart tropical systems.
El Niño is not a guarantee that a high wind shear environment will dominate the season, but rather an indicator that only suggests what atmospheric conditions may be like in the tropics.
Because of the uncertainty of what Mother Nature may bring, we want to help get you prepared and we want to keep you informed as we track tropical waves across the warm waters of the tropics. What you can do is have a plan. Know where you would go if you were asked to evacuate. Know what you would take with you, your families' needs, your medical needs and your work responsibilities. Make that plan now while the tropics are quiet and you have time to make a kit, prep the house and inform your family.
Preparation is the key to the health and safety of your family as we never know when we will need to put those plans in place.
Stay tuned to 10News WTSP for the latest updates as our team tracks the tropics. If something does develop, don't panic. Instead, know that we will walk you through the forecast without scaring you and we'll give you useful information that will make you smarter, better informed and more prepared for the potential storm. I have tracked hurricanes up and down the East Coast and along the gulf and I know what it's like to be nervous as storms approach our area.
Trust us to guide you through the storm and help you protect your family and property. Stick with 10News WTSP on air, online at www.wtsp.com, through our app and in the newspaper.
Here's to a quiet 2017 hurricane season!
Bobby Deskins is a meteorologist with 10Weather WTSP. Follow him @BobbyDWeather, follow 10News WTSP at @10NewsWTSP or look for #WTSP.