BEAUMONT, Texas — It's time for Southeast Texans to make sure their storm plans are in place as the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season gets underway on Thursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in late May a 40% chance of 2023 being a near-normal hurricane season, a 30% chance of an above-average season, which has more storms than usual, and a 30% chance of a below-normal season, which has fewer.
This year, the National Hurricane Center has expanded the tropical weather outlook forecast from five days to seven days.
This will serve as a "heads up" in getting life-saving information to emergency managers regarding evacuation orders.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Doug Cramer tells 12News, hurricane forecasts are getting more accurate.
"We're looking at atmospheric conditions out for the next seven days comparing it to what this little area of disturbance is doing and we're trying to give our communities a little bit of a heads up that 'hey this disturbance made is out in the Gulf or Atlantic and this is what were expecting it to do over the next seven days,'" he said.
Experts hope residents will be able to use the extra time to prepare before a storm ever gets into the Gulf of Mexico.
"Jumped up to seven days and the reason why we do that is to give our communities that may be impacted by tropical weather more time to prepare for those storms," Cramer said.
Those two days should not have a huge impact on the accuracy of the weather outlook.
"We've got a pretty good idea on tropical cyclone tracks all the way back to 1856 in the Atlantic in the gulf basins. So, there's extensive research that's been done with comparing forecast to where these tropical cyclones actually tracked," Cramer said.
12News Chief Meteorologist Patrick Vaughn agrees with forecasting now being more accurate than ever before.
"The cone of uncertainty was during Rita it was from south of Brownsville to east of Lake Charles. That's over 450 miles of coast line. With Laura, the cone shrunk remarkably small," Vaughn said.
Vaughn suggests Southeast Texans take those extra couple of days to prepare.
"Hurricane kit stocked up, supplies and maybe start picking up things around your house, doing some minimal basic early preparation seven days out if you're within the tropical weather outlook," he said.
WHAT IS EL NINO? HOW WILL IT AFFECT THE 2023 SEASON?
El Nino is a natural temporary warming of the Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years, changing weather patterns worldwide.
Generally, the Atlantic is quieter and has fewer storms during El Nino years. That's because the warmer waters of El Nino make warmer air over the Pacific reach higher into the atmosphere and affect wind shear that could head off storms.
Mike Brennan, the new director at the National Hurricane Center in Miami noted there are other factors that add to the uncertainty of the effects of El Nino, such as very warm sea surface temperatures, weaker low-level easterly flows and a more active African monsoon season.
WHAT IS THE FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY'S ROLE?
FEMA Director Deanne Criswell said her agency is working to protect residents in hurricane zones by getting them the “critical information that they need" and making it easier for people to apply for help.
She said the summer doesn't just bring the start of hurricane season, but it's also the beginning of wildfire season.
“So we are in the summer season of severe weather events, but I think as many of you know, it's not just a summer season of severe weather anymore,” she said, noting weather-related events take place throughout the year.
WHY DO HURRICANES HAVE NAMES? WHEN ARE THEY RETIRED?
Hurricanes are named primarily to eliminate confusion if there are two or more storm systems occurring at the same time.
The United States began using female names for storms in 1953 and began alternating male and female names in 1978.
There is a rotating list of Atlantic hurricane season names every six years. The list can then be repeated, with names being eliminated if they are retired from the rotation, according to the National Hurricane Center's website.
The 2023 hurricane names are: Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harold, Idalia, Jose, Katia, Lee, Margot, Nigel, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince and Whitney.
Hurricane names are routinely retired if a storm was so deadly or caused so much destruction that using the name again would be inappropriate. It's not up to the National Hurricane Center to retire a name, however. That practice is left to an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which selects another name to replace the retired one.
The most recent names to be retired include Ian, which struck southwest Florida as a Category 5 hurricane in September 2022 with ferocious winds and storm surge as high as 15 feet (4 meters). Ian killed more than 156 people in the U.S., the vast majority in Florida, according to a comprehensive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on the hurricane.
Other retired names include Katrina, Harvey, Charley, Wilma, Matthew, Michael and Irma.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF THE WORST HURRICANES TO HIT THE UNITED STATES?
In August 1992, powerful Hurricane Andrew struck south of Miami, crossing Florida and making a second landfall in Louisiana. For years, it was the costliest and most damaging hurricane to ever hit the U.S. coastline, resulting in around 65 reported deaths and causing more than $27.3 billion in damages at the time. The Category 5 storm destroyed more than 65,000 houses.
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the New Orleans area as a Category 5 storm in August 2005, still ranks as one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit the United States. Katrina caused more than 1,200 deaths and produced catastrophic damage along the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Harvey struck Louisiana before slamming into Houston as a Category 4 storm in 2017, causing severe flooding. Harvey killed more than 80 people, including 50 in the Houston area.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Katrina and Harvey are listed as the two costliest U.S. hurricanes on record with total costs over $160 billion and $125 billion, respectively.