Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season anticipated in 2022, creating challenges for emergency management leaders and civilians alike

WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 2022 AS OF 2:00 PM EST

On Tuesday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their 2022 Atlantic hurricane season outlook. Forecasting an above average season, the May estimate calls for 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes. This is higher than the regular season average of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Although the historical peak of hurricane season is still a few months away, recent years have shown more early storm formations, something forecasters and emergency managers will be on the lookout for in the coming weeks.

ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON OUTLOOK

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) forecast the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season will feature above-average hurricane activity for the seventh consecutive year. The 2022 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1 and lasts until November 30, with NOAA predicting a 65 percent risk of an above-average season, with only a 25percent chance for a near-normal, and a 10 percent option for a below-normal season. There are 14 to 21 named storms anticipated for the season, with winds reaching 39 miles per hour (mph) or higher. Six to 10 of these storms could likely become hurricanes, with three to six predicted to become major hurricanes as either Category 3, Category 4, or Category 5. These storms can reach wind speeds of 111 mph or higher, and NOAA provided the storm range with a confidence rate of 70 percent. The above-average activity is attributed to climate factors such as La Niña, which consists of warmer sea surface temperatures across the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. 

The Associated Press quoted NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. who noted that the 2022 season “is going to be similar to last year and given that you need only one bad storm to dramatically affect your life, if you fail to plan around this outlook, you’re planning to fail.”.

NOAA: 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

PACIFIC HURRICANE SEASON OUTLOOK

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center and NOAA’s CPC additionally provided a 2022 hurricane season outlook for the Central Pacific Ocean, indicating a 60 percent chance for below-normal tropical cyclone activity throughout the season. The forecast additionally noted a 30 percent chance for near-normal activity, with a 10 percent chance for an above-normal season. NOAA anticipates between two to four tropical cyclones will affect the Central Pacific hurricane region, which includes tropical depressions, named storms, and hurricanes. NOAA Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster Matthew Rosencrans noted the ongoing effects of La Niña are likely to create powerful vertical wind shear, “making it more difficult for hurricanes to develop or move into the Central Pacific Ocean.”

President Joe Biden cautioned “another tough hurricane season” was coming in a federal briefing on May 18, according to The Associated Press, warning that the storms were growing “more extreme every season.” National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Kenneth Graham was also quoted, noting that the United States (US) has had more Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes make landfall from the period of 2017 to 2021 than the entirety of 1963 to 2016.

Recently, forecasters and emergency managers met in Orlando, Florida for the 2022 National Hurricane Conference and in West Palm Beach, Florida for the 2022 Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference. Emergency management practitioners, vendors, and volunteers met for trainings and workshops to discuss best practices and innovative approaches to moving our profession forward. Participation at the two conferences this year demonstrated that both seasoned emergency managers, and those who have found new positions in our field throughout the pandemic, are preparing seriously for another active season this year. 

While COVID-19 concerns may be less significant than they have been over the past two hurricane seasons, emergency managers will have several traditional challenges to face this year, as well as some that are unique to 2022. 

With a high probability of another active hurricane season, here are three important things Hagerty’s Director of Response Programs, Lee Mayfield, encourages emergency managers and decision-makers to keep in mind as they prepare for the next six months.

THREE THINGS EMERGENCY MANAGERS MUST KNOW THIS HURRICANE SEASON

Supply chain issues, rising costs, and gas price implications this hurricane season. Over the past few months, we’ve experienced an increase in daily living costs almost across the board. Gas prices are now averaging $4.60 per gallon nationwide, nightly hotel stays have increased significantly, and costs for everyday items, such as groceries, are on the rise. With gas prices now higher, will residents evacuate if told to do so? Will the increased cost of a week in a hotel persuade a family to stay home or seek out public hurricane shelters in larger numbers than in previous years? Will higher grocery store prices keep individuals from having the necessary supplies on hand or having extra cash saved up for a storm event?

We must also remember that hurricanes have more of an impact on our vulnerable communities and a storm this year would put added economic stress on many who are already struggling. This could translate into more individuals needing support both before and after a storm and will likely also require additional support from non-governmental organization (NGO) partners.

Housing costs. Post-disaster housing has historically been one of the most challenging aspects of hurricane recovery. Setting a hurricane landfall and associated housing issues aside, many hurricane-prone states are in the middle of a housing affordability crisis. With low to moderate income households almost priced out of the market, buying, or renting a home or apartment is already difficult. The current housing situation would almost certainly require additional solutions after a landfall, and emergency managers should be working with their partners now to solve for this.

Evacuating (or not evacuating) your community remains one of the most important decisions you will make – be prepared for it. Local and state leaders now have more tools available to them than ever before, and should constantly be learning, training, and coordinating with the meteorologists who provide crucial information in the days prior to landfall. At the two conferences mentioned above, Ken Graham, Director of the NHC, highlighted the potential for reduced decision-making timelines and the risk of rapidly intensifying hurricanes this season. Of the 4 category 5 hurricanes to strike the US, all were tropical storms three days prior to landfall. Time is often not on our side when it comes to protective action decision-making, and clearly understanding the tools available from the National Weather Service (NWS) and the NHC will build confidence around the art and science behind these important decisions – your local NWS office is also an important year-round resource to assist.

CONCLUSION

As emergency managers face their first hurricane season where COVID-19 is not as pronounced a concern as in years past, there are certainly new challenges to address that will require thoughtful consideration and creativity. Veteran and new emergency managers alike will once again be required to use their expertise, networks, and partnerships to overcome these challenges.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to prepare before a tropical storm or hurricane. After determining the risks of severe weather in your community, it is critical to:

  • Collaborate with your family and household to ensure everyone knows how to reliably receive emergency alerts;
  • Know where to seek shelter inside and outside of the home (dependent on the guidance);
  • Know how to find the safest evacuation routes;
  • Know how everyone will maintain communication during the crisis; and
  • Create an emergency kit that is fully stocked. 

Emergency plans should be personalized based upon the unique composition of your family and household – considering the needs of young children, older adults, and pets; dietary and medical requirements; and individuals living with disabilities. Additional preparedness opportunities could include completing FEMA’s Family Emergency Communication Plan or using this resource as a guide to document important contact information that can be shared with your family and household for safekeeping. Once your plan is set, periodically review and rehearse the plan so that everyone involved can become familiar with their responsibilities and equipped with the confidence to make quick decisions during a real emergency. FEMA suggests several precautionary steps you can take to protect your home and personal property from damage by high winds and floods, including reviewing your flood insurance coverage.

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HURRICANE SEASON 2022