It’s that time of year again in North America – when hurricane season starts – and the outlook for summer 2022 is an above-average season. The prediction, according to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is anywhere from 3 – 6 major ones expected this season, where major include category 3 (111 – 129 mph winds), 4 (130 – 156 mph) and 5 (157 mph or higher). Major hurricanes can cause catastrophic damage, leading to widespread power outages and flooding due to heavy rainfall and storm surges. The time to prepare, if you’re in hurricane-prone areas, is now. Hurricane Agatha, the first named storm of the year, just made landfall earlier this week on the southern Mexico Coast. It also made history as the strongest Pacific hurricane to make landfall in May (top winds reached 110 mph, nearly a Category 3).
This season’s predicted increased activity is due to a few climate factors: the presence of La Niña in the Pacific, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures and weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds. When El Niño is present in the Pacific instead (warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures along the west coast of South America), its strong winds can break apart hurricanes as they form in the Atlantic. When La Niña is present (as it is now), conditions are cooler than usual in the Pacific, leading to more hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean due to weaker winds. Typically, there are fewer hurricanes in the Pacific, due to stronger winds, but Hurricane Agatha originated in the Pacific. We’re also contending with (overall) warmer water temperatures.
How do you prepare for a hurricane? Have a “go bag” ready with extra clothes, medications, food, water, first aid kit and flashlight. Extra (charged) battery packs for your phone are handy. Reinforce and secure your doors, roof and windows. Remove any outdoor patio furniture. Protect your important documents (financial, insurance information, medical records, passports, etc.) in a waterproof container. Finally, download the FEMA app to get real-time weather alerts and have an emergency contact (preferably out of state): https://www.fema.gov/about/news-multimedia/mobile-app-text-messages
photo: U. Peña, La Paz, Mexico