By Dale C. S. Destin
It seems like someone has forgotten to tell the Atlantic the forecast. All forecasts to date are indicating a near normal Atlantic Hurricane Season. The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from June 1 to November 30. Notwithstanding, the second pre-season storm – Beryl – for May and the year has formed (May 26 to present). This tied with May of 1887 for the most named storms (2) in May for a given year based on record, which goes back to 1851. The other pre-season storm was Alberto – May 19-22. Although Beryl poses no threat to Antigua, many years ago two pre-season hurricanes affected the area.
All forecasts to date for the Atlantic Hurricane season call for 7 to 15 named storms – a near normal season. The near normal forecasts are due primarily to near normal sea surface temperatures across the Equatorial Tropical Pacific Ocean and normal to below normal sea surface temperatures across the North Atlantic Ocean, particularly the Tropical North Atlantic. However, although there have never been two storms in the same year in the month of May, past pre-season storms have not portend anything about the activity of the upcoming season. Of the past five seasons with pre-season storms or hurricanes, two were above normal, two were near normal and one was below normal. Of course we have never seen two tropical storms in may; let’s see how the year turns out.
Although pre-season storms do not happen often, they are not unusual in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Seas and the Gulf of Mexico). The currently define Atlantic Hurricane Season, June 1 – Nov 30, accounts for about 97% of all Atlantic tropical cyclones (storms and hurricanes); of the remaining 3%, 48% occurs in May and the other months account for the rest. Further, of the pre-season tropical cyclones, 80% occurs in May (See table 1). Off season tropical cyclones are most likely to occur in the Central to Western Atlantic Ocean and most do not make landfall. Of the tropical cyclones that did strike land, most have affected areas surrounding the Caribbean Sea. Cumulatively, these pre-season cyclones have caused the death of hundreds primarily in Hispaniola and Cuba. The strongest pre-season (and post-season) tropical cyclone was Hurricane Able in May 1951.
Antigua has been struck at least twice by pre-season tropical cyclones. The island was impacted by Hurricane Alice2 January 2 – 3, 1955. The system formed on December 30, 1954 and continued until January 6, 1955; this is the only Hurricane and the first of only two tropical cyclones to span two calendar years; the other tropical cyclone was Tropical Storm Zeta of 2005-2006. Previous to 1955, the island was impacted by (Unnamed) Hurricane One of 1908 March 7 – 8. The system formed on March 6 and dissipated March 9. Both hurricanes passed within 75 statute miles northwest of Antigua and also affected most of the rest of the Northeast Caribbean as the travelled from northeast to southwest. Both also dissipated in the Eastern Caribbean Sea near the islands (See Map 1 and 2)
The record shows that at least one tropical cyclone has occurred in every month of the year. Antigua has been affected by tropical cyclones in seven of twelve months of the year – January, March, July, August, September, October and November. For all of us in this part of the world, a certain level of preparedness is required even outside the hurricane season.
|Total and Average Number of Tropical Storms by Month
|Table 1: *Less than 0.05%. The list excludes subtropical storms. Antigua
Storms and Hurricanes are those that passed within 120 statute of the
island. Data (first 4 columns) from http://www.aoml.noaa.gov