North Carolina

Hurricane season could be worse than originally forecast, NOAA says

The likelihood of an “above-normal” Atlantic hurricane season has increased, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says.

Forecasters predicted a 30 percent probability of an “above-normal” season in May, and that likelihood has increased to a 45 percent probability, NOAA said Thursday.

In May, forecasters said they expected four to eight hurricanes during the season. But now five to nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes are expected, NOAA said.

Hurricanes have 74 mph or higher winds, and major hurricanes have 111 mph winds or higher, NOAA says.

These new predictions come with the end of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, which “typically suppresses” hurricane activity in the Atlantic, according to NOAA.

“This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said, according to NOAA.

Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to November 30, with peak season starting in August and ending in October, according to NOAA.

There are usually about six hurricanes and three major hurricanes in an average hurricane season in the Atlantic, according to NOAA, and last year there were eight hurricanes during the season, including major hurricanes Michael and Florence, which hit the Carolinas.

Although the probability of an “above-normal” season has increased, there is still a 35 percent change of a “near-normal” season, forecasters say.

But even if the season is “near-normal,” the Carolinas still need to be ready, Steve Pfaff with the National Weather Service in Wilmington told the Charlotte Observer when NOAA’s May predictions came out.

“Just because it’s a near-normal year doesn’t mean we don’t need to prepare,” Pfaff said following May’s forecast, according to the Charlotte Observer. “We need to get ready. There’s just too much at risk.”

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Bailey Aldridge is a reporter covering real-time news in North and South Carolina. She has a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.