Hurricane season begins on Friday, June 1, and experts say it could be an above-average season, especially for the East Coast.
Mike Emlaw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Charleston, said predictions made for an active season are based on statistics such as ocean temperatures and wind patterns, but said it’s hard to predict where actual storms may occur.
But he said El Nino and La Nina patterns, which deal with warmer and cooler than average water temperatures respectively, are good indicators of storm activity."During an El Nino, the stronger winds in the Atlantic tear storms apart before they materialize," Emlaw said. "With La Nina, the winds are a lot weaker, and the tendency to tear things apart is much less. That certainly can indicate that we could have stronger storm systems."
Regarding actual predictions for where storms may hit, Emlaw compared that to being blindfolded and throwing darts at a dartboard.
"The more darts you throw the better the chance of hitting a certain area," he said. "So the more storms we have the more likely something may impact (the East Coast)."
Emlaw said despite the predictions, it only takes one storm to make it a rough season on a certain area.
"We could have a slow season but it only takes one storm to impact an area to make it a bad year," he said.
As the hurricane season progresses and upper level ridges of high pressure are in place, Emlaw said it will then be easier to get a sense of the behavior of the season.
Jim Anderson, Bryan County’s director of emergency services, agreed with Emlaw and said the predictions are accurate insofar as the number of storms to be expected, but said pinpointing where they will hit is hard to tell.
"It’s hit or miss," he said. "They look at wind patterns but they really don’t know where the storms will hit."
Anderson said Bryan County has an approved emergency operations plan through the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, and said the plan is in place despite predictions of bad weather.
"It’s the same for us every year whether they predict for us low or high (storm patterns)," he said.
Anderson explained the emergency plan in place deals with the responsibilities of each county agency in the event of an evacuation, ranging from local and county police to the Board of Education. He said police and local media outlets would be used to inform the public of an impending evacuation.
Anderson said various organizations, including the American Red Cross, have information available for how to prepare for natural disasters including hurricanes and what to do in the event one is headed to the area.
The National Weather Service announced Tuesday their predictions for the upcoming hurricane season, saying they expect 13 to 17 tropical storms – seven to 10 reaching hurricane status – with three reaching the strong category. Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.