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Forecasters are predicting that the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season is supposed to be the most active since 2012.
A total of 14 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes are forecast during the coming season. A major hurricane is one that is considered a Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
This is greater than the 30-year historical average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes for the Atlantic basin.
(An important note about this outlook is that the seasonal forecast numbers do include Hurricane Alex, a rare January hurricane that struck the Azores a few months back. Though the official hurricane season spans the months from June through November, occasionally we can see storms form outside those months.)
So, what does this mean for the United States?
There is no strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the named storms forecast to develop this season could hit the U.S., or none at all. Therefore, residents of the coastal United States should prepare each year no matter the forecast.
A couple of classic examples of why you need to be prepared each year occurred in 1992 and 1983.
The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.
In 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida.
Conversely, in 2010 the season was very active. However, despite the large number of storms that year, not a single hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the United States.
In other words, a season can deliver many storms, but have little impact, or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact.
The U.S. averages between 1 to 2 hurricane landfalls each season, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division statistics. However, the number of U.S. landfalls has been much below average in the last decade.
Bottom line: The U.S. is due for another hurricane strike sooner rather than later, but it’s impossible to know if that will occur this season. Keep in mind, however, that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly, resulting in flooding rainfall.