The Unpredictability of Storm Prediction

Thursday, June 21, 2018David Ehrlich
Around this time last year, the National Hurricane Center was projecting the storm season to bring 11 named storms and 5 hurricanes (2 of which would be classified as major) throughout the southern states. This would be a significant underestimate as the coming months saw 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes (6 of which were major), and thousands of fatalities along with over $280 billion in total damage.

As the 2018 storm season gets underway, how can one be sure the predictions are correct? Is there any accurate way to analyze hurricane patterns and forecast months in advance or will this be another repeat of last year?

The Weather Channel reported on April 5, 2018 a headline that called for a “more active than usual” hurricane season boasting 14 named storms and 6 hurricanes (2 of which are to be major). This report was later revised on May 18 as the upcoming season was downgraded to “near-average” according to The Weather Channel’s new outlook.

Modern weather forecasting can generally predict when a change in pressure will occur in a particular region with the help of satellite technology but there is no real way to determine intensity of a front before it develops other than examining 30 year averages. With conflicting numbers being published a little over a month apart and science limitations, its difficult to know how to prepare for the upcoming storm season.

Florida in 1992 is a classic example of predictions that negatively impact emergency preparation. Only 6 named storms were produced but one of them, Hurricane Andrew, was a direct hit Category 5 that devastated much of southern Florida and the Bahamas. The only significant hurricane to cause damage was responsible for $27.3 billion of lost assets.

On the other hand, 2010 was projected to be, and was accurately, an “active” year with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. However, no weather events more significant than a tropical storm made landfall in the United States.

When preparing to address a potentially serious emergency, it’s better to err on the side of caution and assume the worst is possible. Establishing a relationship with a restoration contractor like Rolyn can be a key part of this process even before winds picks up and rain starts falling. "Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector, and the public," said acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski following a recent storm.

No one can say with certainty how many storms will be seen this season. But given the recent history of damaging weather events at this time of year, it’s best to not rely on any prediction.

About the Author

David Ehrlich
National Sales Director

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