This year, there was a little nervousness moving into hurricane season for many Southwest Floridians – and rightfully so! Around this time last year, Southwest Florida was preparing for Hurricane Irma, which was an extremely powerful hurricane that caused catastrophic damage damage and deaths in Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, and the Virgin Islands as a Category 5 hurricane. By the time it made landfall in Southwest Florida, it became a category 4 hurricane, but still caused great damage from Marco Island and moving Northwest through Florida. That was an experience that many Floridians hoped would not repeat itself in 2018.
Thanks to El Niño, it looks as if Southwest Florida can take a sigh of relief for now. In part because of the developing El Niño, federal forecasters have predicted that a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely. El Niño is a natural warming of Pacific ocean water and typically suppresses hurricane activity by sending strong winds across the Atlantic and Caribbean. Those winds play a part in dismantling developing storms. Forecasters say there’s a 70 percent chance that El Niño will form during this hurricane season. Unusually cool ocean water in the Atlantic is also a factor in the reduced forecast. Hurricanes need to fuel from warm ocean water to form and intensify.
As Floridians know, the weather is very unpredictable and anything can change, but this forecast comes as a welcome bit of news! The hurricane season officially began June 1 and will run through Nov. 30, so just a few more months to go! And, remember, as with any major storm, preparation is the key!