The 2013 hurricane season came to an end on Nov. 30. Despite that no hurricanes have hit Florida in eight years, officials urge residents to not become complacent.
The 2013 hurricane season ended on Saturday, and it is likely that few people noticed. It was a bright, sunny and blissfully cool day. And for some emergency managers, that is cause for concern.
Florida hasn’t been hit by a hurricane since 2005. In the past eight years, tens of thousands of people have moved into the Tampa Bay area with no idea what a tropical cyclone can do. In the past eight years, even longtime Floridians have had ample opportunity to become complacent about storms.
No one in state or county emergency management wants a hurricane to hit. But at the same time, they fear that the public is forgetting all about hurricanes. It only takes one to create a catastrophe.
Despite that the 2013 hurricane season seemed to come and go without much notice in the Tampa Bay area, the season was an interesting and unusual one — it was a season that almost completely defied the forecasts.
The season saw 13 named storms, which was slightly above the average of 11 named storms in a typical season. But that is one of the few areas where 2013 was above normal. Only two hurricanes formed, Humberto and Ingrid, both in September, and that is well below the nearly six storms in an average season. Only Ingrid made landfall on the northern Gulf coast of Mexico.
There were no major hurricanes this year, something that has not occurred since 1994, and was also well below the average of nearly three per season. Among the many metrics the National Hurricane Center uses is one known as the Accumulated Cyclone Energy. The ACE value this year was the lowest it has been in nearly 20 years and, according to the NHC, was 67 percent lower than the 1981 to 2010 seasonal averages.
This year also tied a long-standing record for the latest first hurricane.
Only one storm, Andrea, which formed on June 5, had a slight impact on the Tampa Bay area, making landfall well north as a tropical storm. The last storm, Melissa, dissipated on Nov. 22 without making landfall.
The original forecasts called for a much more active season. And that is becoming a concern for emergency officials.
“Complacency becomes the real threat with a slower than predicted season,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon. “The last hurricane to make landfall in Florida was in 2005. The last eight years have seen an influx of new residents, who may have experienced a tropical storm and believe that this event is the same in intensity as an actual hurricane. Memories also tend to fade with the passage of time between events, so even lifelong residents become complacent in their preparedness. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to remain prepared and vigilant.”
Emergency managers in Hillsborough County and across the state have no desire to see a disaster. So they hope for the best and prepare for the worst. But even with the end of hurricane season, that doesn’t mean the threat of dangerous weather is over.
“Florida was fortunate to make it through another hurricane season without significant damage from a storm,” said Koon. “The models projected an active hurricane season this year. Many people believe all severe weather threats disappear at the end of hurricane season. Floridians and visitors must remember the other threats that exist, such as severe weather, flooding and wildfires.”
There were a number of factors that contributed to this year being relatively quiet, despite the forecast for an active season. One of the chief factors was dust from the Saharan Desert that produced dry air conditions in the Eastern Atlantic. That is not something easily predicted, nor should it be counted on to be a factor next year. The same goes for East Coast weather patterns over the summer that helped to keep storms from making landfall.
The quiet 2013 hurricane season ended without incident on a beautiful and cool day last week. Next year, however, could be an entirely different story. Despite that the state hasn’t experienced a hurricane in years, they are a way of life in Florida and, as such, life must be prepared to adapt.
Finally, the Ruskin office of the National Weather Service maintains an outstanding Facebook page at www.facebook.com/US.NationalWeatherService.TampaBay.gov.