Federal Officials Stress Preparation Ahead of Uncertainty-Surrounding 2023 Hurricane Season

Federal Officials Stress Preparation Ahead of Uncertainty-Surrounding 2023 Hurricane Season

Dr. Mike Brennan and Deanne Criswell at Wednesday’s National Hurricane Center and FEMA press briefing. {Photo by Bryan Boggiano}

By Bryan Boggiano

The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season just began, and hurricane experts urge residents to prepare for a season marked by much higher-than-usual forecast uncertainty.

Ahead of the 2023 Hurricane Season, Talk Media attended the pre-season press briefing at the National Hurricane Center on May 31.

There, director Dr. Mike Brennan and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell discussed the season’s forecast and what homeowners, renters, and local officials should do to prepare for the upcoming season, marked by higher-than-usual uncertainty.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) calls for 12 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and anywhere between one and four major hurricanes. An average season has 14, seven, and three, respectively. Brennan said 2022 was an average season, but storms such as Hurricane Ian, Nicole, and Fiona had significant impacts.

In Coral Springs, heavy rainfall from the precursor to Tropical Storm Alex displaced multiple families.

NOAA’s forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of near-average activity and a 30 percent chance of below and above-average activity.

Colorado State University predicts a near-average season, while North Carolina State University and Tropical Storm Risk call for slightly below-average activity. The University of Arizona and the United Kingdom Meteorological Office call for above-average activity.

The forecasts differ based on uncertainty regarding the timing and strength of an upcoming El Nino event. NOAA’s May forecast calls for a greater than 90 percent chance of El Nino conditions between August and October, the historical peak of hurricane season.

The last three hurricane seasons have been La Nina years. This is the opposite of El Nino, and it tends to increase hurricane activity by reducing wind shear and increasing instability over the Atlantic.

An El Nino causes stronger wind shear and drier air over the Tropical Atlantic, preventing tropical systems from developing. If the El Nino is weaker or comes on later, its effects on the season would be less significant. NOAA explains more about how El Nino/La Nina works.

Still, Brennan warned there are other variables at play this season, including warmer-than-normal waters across much of the Atlantic basin and an active West African Monsoon, which help storms form and strengthen.

“These forces are kind of going to fight it out over the course of this hurricane season,” he said.

Brennan added regardless of seasonal forecasts, residents near the coast and in vulnerable areas need to prepare as if they will be affected.

“It only takes one storm to make it a busy season for you,” he said.

To help residents, businesses, and local officials prepare, Brennan announced the NHC would issue seven-day outlooks instead of five, use a new storm surge model, use the HAFS model for intensity and track, and improve forecasting rapid intensification events.

Criswell said FEMA will also have some operational differences during the season. She said these changes include enhancing and streamlining the application process for federal assistance, changing documentation requirements for assistance eligibility, and prepositioning resources more aggressively.

“We want to understand what [people’s] needs are instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach,” she said.

Criswell stated FEMA is also ready to use geospatial and satellite data and artificial intelligence to streamline search, rescue, and cleanup processes.

After Ian, she said this technology jumpstarted the recovery process and helped people get assistance quickly. A more complex issue, Criswell said, is housing, which FEMA seeks to tackle through their housing integration teams.

She urged people in hazard-prone areas to know their risk, identify trusted sources of information, understand their insurance plans and what they cover, and have enough resources for every household member.

“Today is the day to start making those plans,” she said.

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Bryan Boggiano

Bryan Boggiano
Bryan has a degree in journalism from the University of Florida and earned his masters in geosciences from Florida International University, where he focused in atmospheric sciences. His interests include weather, entertainment, and municipal government.

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