AccuWeather issued one of the first predictions for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season Wednesday, with a forecast that calls for five to seven hurricanes.
That number of storms would represent a slight decline from last year, which produced eight hurricanes, including Hurricane Michael, which struck the Florida Panhandle at devastating Category 4 strength.
The weather forecasting company called for a near-normal or slightly above normal number of storms for the season, with runs June 1 to Nov. 30. But even an average or below-average season can produce a catastrophic storm. Forecasters are fond of pointing out that the “quiet” hurricane season of 1992 produced Hurricane Andrew.
“We think this year will be not quite as active as last year,” said Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s senior meteorologist. “But it only takes one hurricane to completely devastate an area.”
The company predicted two to four of the hurricanes would reach Category 3, or major hurricane, strength, which means wind speeds of at least 111 mph.
The company also predicted the season would see 12 to 15 tropical storms, down from 15 last year. A tropical storm, which has structure similar to that of hurricanes, with winds rotating around an area of low pressure, produces winds of 39 to 73 mph. The next step up is a Category 1 hurricane.
AccuWeather’s recent record on early hurricane-season forecasts is mixed. Last season, AccuWeather was right on the money, predicting six to eight hurricanes for a season that would produce eight.
But the previous year, AccuWeather — and other organizations — initially called for a below-average season, with just five hurricanes. The 2017 hurricane season turned out to be catastrophic, with 10 hurricanes that included the murderous storms Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Early forecasts of hurricane season are the most difficult, which is why many organizations issue multiple forecasts as the season gets closer and make additional forecasts before it peaks in August and September.