Forecasters predict busy Atlantic hurricane season in 2020
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a likely above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2020, with three to six major hurricanes forming, though there is no specific forecast for how New Jersey will fare.
Even beyond those concerns, officials at all levels of government are trying to determine the best ways to advise the American public about safe evacuations and sheltering while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
"FEMA is working with our partners on their locally implemented, state-managed, and federally supported shelter planning efforts under the COVID-19 environment, to ensure the safety and security of all by following CDC guidance," Carlos Castillo, Federal Emergency Management Agency acting deputy administrator for resilience, said.
According to NOAA, there is a 60% chance of an above-normal season, which not only would include those three to six major hurricanes (categories 3, 4, or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher), but six to 10 potential hurricanes total, among 13 to 19 named storms.
"If 2020 becomes an above-normal season, it will make a record of five consecutive above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons," Gerry Bell, NOAA lead hurricane season forecaster, said.
That would break a record, Bell said, for the longest string of such seasons, surpassing 1998 through 2001.
But on a local level, what is normal? Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said that's not necessarily determined by the number of serious events.
"It only takes one storm to make it a memorable, devastating season, and it doesn't require a direct landfall to drive heavy rain, damaging wind and catastrophic storm surge toward New Jersey," he said.
Zarrow added that the official Atlantic hurricane season does not start until June 1, but the first named storm of 2020, Tropical Storm Arthur, has already brought 9-foot waves and 40+ mph wind gusts to the Jersey Shore this week.
The peak hurricane months in this area, according to NOAA, are August, September, and October, and by then New Jerseyans may have a better idea of what to expect. Then again, they may not.
"NOAA will update this outlook in early August, as we do each year, to provide the latest information for public preparedness at the onset of the peak months of the hurricane season," Bell said.
Castillo reminded East Coast residents, including Garden State residents both at the shore and inland, to re-familiarize themselves with evacuation routes and always have an emergency plan of action and materials at the ready.
"Know your hurricane risk. Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Find out how rain, wind, and water could affect you where you live, so you can start preparing now."