Above-average tropical storm, hurricane activity expected this year as La Nina lingers into summer

·5 min read

The 2022 hurricane season starts today, and emergency managers say now is the time to prepare as an active season is expected during a time of supply chain uncertainties.

"We took a look at some of the early projections, and it looks like it's going to be a busy season," said Dan Summers, Collier County Emergency Services director. "But our philosophy is still the same: it only takes one."

Summers said Floridians shouldgather hurricane supplies to prepare for the season, which starts June 1.

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"We used to talk about the first 24 hours or the first 48 hours being 'up to you,' but with supply chains and what's going on in the world, their supplies should be able to last 72 to 96 hours to help them for another day or two," Summers said. "The crazy prices are really frustrating but if we get hat Irma-type (2017) storm, when 40-some counties are impacted, you need those extra days of supplies and self-sufficiency."

Colorado State University's team of hurricane experts is calling for 19 named storms and nine hurricanes, with four of those becoming a Category 3 or higher system.

An average hurricane season brings 12 named systems, with six of those becoming hurricanes — and three of those being Category 3 or higher.

La Nina figures to play into at least the first part of the hurricane season.

The weather phenomena typically causes drier winters and springs in Florida and shifts the jet stream north of the Sunshine State. That, in turn, creates weak winds aloft, which creates better conditions for tropical storms and hurricanes.

One advantage that Floridians have is advancing technology, which allows forecasters to better pinpoint the location where a storm will make landfall.

Sandra Tapfumaneyi, the Director of Public Safety-Emergency Management in Lee County displays resources that can be used in preparation of a disaster including a hurricane.
Sandra Tapfumaneyi, the Director of Public Safety-Emergency Management in Lee County displays resources that can be used in preparation of a disaster including a hurricane.

“The cone is shrinking a little bit this year, just by a bit and that’s because in the last couple of years, their technology (has become) more precise," said Sandra Tapfumaneyi, director of emergency management for Lee County. "They are looking storm by storm; what the accuracy looks like and what is the prediction for the year.”

Summers said residents should prepare a little each week, accumulating the needed supplies a week at a time.

"It's the lifeboat not the Love Boat," Summers said of emergency management services in the aftermath of a powerful storm. "And you don't have to buy it all today, but we all have seen such inconsistencies — one day you may not be able to get a 2 x 4 and the next week you can't get plywood. You really don't want a mad rush because you don't know when Lowe's or Home Depot will restock."

For non-Floridians, Summers said sending canned foods or other supplies in the wake of a storm can add to the burden as it forces agencies to deal with the goods while balancing other needs.

Are storms becoming more common?

It may seem logical that a warmer climate means more tropical storms, but that's not the case, experts say.

"In a warmer world, the science is clear that tropical cyclone impacts, especially water impacts, will increase," said John Cangialosi, with the National Hurricane Center in Miami. "The number of tropical storms and hurricanes is expected to decrease, not increase, by around 15%. The intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes is anticipated to increase around 5%."

The real danger in the near future is sea level rise, Cangialosi said.

"Current projections are that sea level could generally rise by 2 to 3 feet by 2100, making storm surge flooding by named storms that much worse for any given landfall as well as expanding the threat of storm surge to areas where it previously was not a concern," he said.

Retired planner and climate expert Jim Beever said the hurricane season itself may be longer.

"You can't say that they're stronger because there has always been stronger hurricanes, but the hurricane center is talking about extending the date two weeks early for hurricane center," Beever said "They're considering starting the season on May 15 because the past seven years they've had hurricanes occurring between May 15 and the end of May."

The news on the strong storms is in, though, as more large storms have hit the United States in the past five years than did in the past five decades.

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"We had more Category 4 and Category 5 landfalls in the (United States) from 2017 to 2021 than from 1963 to 2016," said Ken Graham, with the National Hurricane Center, in a statement. "Hurricanes don’t care about international boundaries. We need to be prepared,"

Cangialosi said he doesn't expect to see changes in the frequency of storms in the future as fewer but more powerful storms are expected.

"The bottom line is that all these man-made projected changes for numbers, intensity, and rainfall are all small a long way into the future — except for sea level rise," Cangialosi said. "Any changes that have occurred thus far due to manmade climate change are tiny and not meaningful."

What's in a name?

The World Meteorological Organization, or WHO, recently retired the name Ida after a storm with that named caused more than 100 deaths and billions of dollars in property destruction in Louisiana in 2021.

Names rotate on a six-year basis, and storm names are retired if the storm is deadly.

Hurricane Ida was the second most intense hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana, following Hurricane Katrina (2005), according to NHC records.

Ninety-four names have been retired since 1953.

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter. 

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Hurricane season: Busy storm season expected as La Nina lingers