Tropical Storm Andrea Bears Down on Florida as Feisty Hurricane Season Gets Under Way

[node:summary]Tropical Storm Andrea hits Florida as above-average hurricane season gets under way; NOAA predicts 13 names storms, several major.

The first named storm of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season bore down on Florida’s western coast on June 6 with 60-mile-per-hour winds, an expected three to six inches of rain, and a potential storm surge of two to four feet.

Tropical Storm Andrea was projected to make landfall on Florida’s Big Bend area on Thursday afternoon and then continue onward to southeastern Georgia and the Carolinas, the Associated Press reported.

Although it was not expected to develop into a hurricane, Andrea spawned two confirmed tornadoes that touched down early Thursday, the AP said, and flash flood warnings were in effect.

It was the first tropical storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season that began on June 1 and runs through the end of November. No fewer than nine forecasting groups have predicted a feisty one. The latest prediction came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which on May 23 forecast “an active or extremely active season this year.”

This means that between now and the end of November, there is a 70 percent chance of 13 to 20 named storms (meaning their winds will exceed 39 miles per hour), seven to 11 of them potential hurricanes, with 74-mph or higher winds. Between three and six of those hurricanes could be major storms of categories three through five, whose winds exceed 111 mph, NOAA said in its Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook.

The normal seasonal average, NOAA said, is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Even six weeks ahead of hurricane season, four independent forecasting outlets predicted a similar season back in April, the Washington Post reported.

“We anticipate an above-average Atlantic basin hurricane season due to the combination of an anomalously warm tropical Atlantic and a relatively low likelihood of El Niño,” wrote Klotzbach and Gray in their report. El Niño is an equatorial climate change that occurs periodically in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The temporary phenomenon suppresses hurricane activity over in the Atlantic.

“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” said Gerry Bell, the climate prediction center’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, in the NOAA statement. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."

Below, Bell delves deeper into the reasons behind the hurricane increase.