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OK, pal, I'll put a c-note on Normal to Below Normal at 2 to 1

The hurricane season is around the corner, and the heavy predictions are coming in. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this week that 2014 will see normal to below normal tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic. The season officially runs from June 1 to November 30.

For years Floridians would spend these next six months on tenterhooks. Every breeze that blew up, every rain cloud that formed on the horizon could bring devastation and loss of life. Those were the years following Hurricane Andrew. In 1992, forecasts for a mild year had been pretty accurate. Then, in August, came the first named storm of the season: Andrew. Andrew literally and figuratively blew all of the predictions out of the water.

Andrew did prove an important point, though: It only takes one.

The NOAA says we have a 70 percent chance of seeing eight to 13 named storms this year. Three to six of those could become hurricanes, and one or two of the hurricanes could reach Category 3, 4 or 5 status. Storms are ranked by sustained wind speed: Named storms see winds of 39 mph or higher, hurricanes clock in at 74 mph or higher, and the more severe storms (categories 3, 4 and 5) blow at 111 mph or higher.

There is certainly rain with a hurricane, but the wind is usually the cause of most of the property damage. Superstorm Sandy is a good example: The rain may have caused some flooding in Lower Manhattan, but it was the storm surge -- the wall of water whipped up by the high winds -- that took out the power plant and flooded the subway tunnels.

The NOAA also sees the development of El Nino, the weather phenomenon (caused by shifting winds) that results in warmer waters in the Pacific Ocean. According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, El Nino often translates into wetter winters for the southeastern U.S. As far as the hurricane season is concerned, El Nino usually means fewer tropical storms in the Atlantic but more in the Pacific.

Whatever happens this year, Floridians would do well to review their homeowners insurance policies and to keep their premiums up to date. We, however, will spend the next six months watching the NOAA website and keeping track of wind speeds and named storms.

Sources: 

Business Insurance, "NOAA predicts near- or below-normal Atlantic hurricane season for 2014," Matthew Lerner, May 22, 2014

Boston Magazine, "Seasonal Hurricane Predictions Can Only Forecast So Much," Ingrid Adamow, Aug. 9, 2013

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