It's official! Hurricane season is underway. Things are quiet based on the latest satellite picture due to extensive shear in the Gulf, Carribean, and Lesser Antilles depicted by the yellow and white colors above. Unfortunately do not get used to it. I am watching a more active Madden Julian Oscillation developing, a ridge expected to develop over the Gulf, and an intensifying El Nino. By this time next week things will look a lot more interesting and by later next week we may be talking about our first storm of the season developing. All we have been hearing from the experts is how it looks to be a normal year with about 10 named storms and six hurricanes. But the latest look at tropics looks like it is anything but normal. Nature has done a complete flip-flop from what I am used to seeing when it comes to pressure patterns, trade winds, sea surface temperatures, and moisture. This means be ready for anything and everything this season.
Tropical Storm Abby's track that impacted the First Coast on June 7,1968 with sustained winds of 50 mph along with flooding. This year some models are showing a repeat of a wild start to our hurricane season.
There are cooler than average waters over the deep tropics along with a stronger than normal Azores High Pressure system bringing a drier than average atmosphere with Saharan African dust primed to take over the Atlantic. This will lead to higher pressures forming in the Intertropical Covergence Zone and will cause a distinct domino effect that will bring corresponding lower pressures and a higher risk of development closer to the land areas including the coastline of the United States.
What this means for us at home is not the best of news. Tropical systems will have less of a chance to turn out to sea like we see so often when they approach the northeast Florida Coast and we may have less time to prepare when one of these storms form. You remember Humberto that hit Texas back in 2007 when that storm went from a tropical disturbance to a full-fledged hurricane in less than 24 hours. This is a disturbing trend that could be repeated over the next few years. Pop up thunderstorms will not be the only thing in our Florida forecast this summer but more ominously "pop-up hurricanes". So when you hear that it is important to be ready and prepared ahead of time. This is the year to heed that warning.
If this is not enough, I also see an early tropial season like we saw in June, 1968 when we had three named storms. Normally the tropics do not get cranked up until August and September. This year we have similar weather patterns in place that match up eerily with 1968. This is what we call an analog year. By knowing what happened in the past it can help be a guide for you to help you understand what may come together in the atmosphere in the future. It is a great forecast tool and we will see if it works this year.
Hurricane Dora's track above. It was a category two storm that brought an average of 10 inches of rain across Northeast Florida. The May storm of 2009 actually brought a little more rain to the area with an average rainfall of 12 inches!
Consider what happened in May a warning sign for what we can expect in the tropics this year. We were very close to having two named storms in May in the Atlantic basin. The storm with no name brought rain amounts never before seen from a non-named storm according to many locals. Clay and Nassau Counties ended up with 8 to 12 inches. Duval County had 10 to 17 inches of rain, St. Johns and Putnam Counties had 12 to 18 inches of rain, while Flagler County had 24 to 30 inches of rain. This was more rain than Hurricane Dora brought to the area and brought back bad memories of Tropical Storm Fay. The May storm washed away roads and in its wake will have a major impact on how we will view this hurricane season. This year throw out all the percentages. Areas that normally are in the middle of common hurricane tracks like south Florida where chances of hurricanes each year are near 16% may have less of a threat while our backyards have a higher risk. That is right to emphasize this remember that areas that normally are not prone to hurricanes will have a higher risk and this year and it includes the Jacksonville and St. Augustine areas. In a typical year northeast Florida has a 2 percent chance of a hurricane or a 5% chance of a direct hit from a tropical storm. This gives our area the lowest risk of being hit by a hurricane in the state of Florida, but it can and does happen. We all remember Hurricane Dora that hit the First Coast as a category two storm. You see its infamous path above.
Here is a picture of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. It may not have been called our country's oldest city if it were not for a hurricane that hit the First Coast in 1565!
We all hear that before Dora no other hurricane had every been recorded. This is not true. It may be true in modern history but according to historical records northeast Florida has been hit by several hurricanes and the city of St. Augustine you see above may not have been founded in 1565 if it were not for a hurricane that hit the area. The hurricane actually helped the Spanish defeat the French forces and this in turn helped it become the first European Settlement in the United States. There are also reports of huge hurricanes that hit our area back in 1765, 1837, and 1848. Now are you ready to put together your family disaster plan. Okay, you can go to this link and get started.
It should not take you long to fill out all your necessary information. It took my family less than a half-hour. Have a great day and tomorrow we will take a look at why humidity and thunderstorms will make a return to your forecast as early as tomorrow. I will pinpoint when and where those finicky Florida thunderstorms will pop! To all my Indiana friends....batten down the hatches once again today. I will make sure to post some of your incredible pictures of pileus caps and wall clouds taken on Saturday evening. The same stormy set-up will be in place the next couple of days and this front will actually spawn more storms here in Florida by late week.