How many hurricanes will form this summer? The government has a forecast

 

The Atlantic hurricane season starts June 1 and you can expect between five to nine hurricanes to form, which is a little above the average according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Forecasters with NOAA, which just released its official hurricane forecast, “predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher),” according to a statement posted on the NOAA web site.

The forecast includes Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed unusually early in April.

The average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, and three of which become major ones. The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, which had 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major ones.

Hurricanes can devastate the Gulf region, as Katrina, Rita and Ike did in years past, but they tend not to hit Central Texas in the same way. Here, the worry tends to be storms that spin off the periphery of hurricanes. Those storms can, in turn, lead to high winds, tornadoes and heavy rainfall that causes the top weather risk in the region: flooding.

The hurricane forecast calls for a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Niño, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in the statement.

As to one of the key questions – whether a hurricane will devastate any coastal communities – the forecast is silent. After all, as a wise man once said, predictions are difficult, especially about the future.

 

Insurer asks: How do Austin metro counties rank among stormiest in Texas?

Insurer asks: How do Austin metro counties rank among stormiest in Texas?

Central Texas took another beating from severe weather this past weekend, especially the Lake Travis area in western Travis County that saw what appeared to be a funnel cloud forming over the lake.

RELATED: Lake Travis receives brunt of Sunday storms

According to Travis County sheriff’s officials and neighbors, a tornado hit the Village of Point Venture on Lake Travis, tearing 50-year-old trees out of the ground in a nearby park and damaging property, including a golf course and restaurant. Fortunately, no injuries were reported.

Only a few days earlier, a line of strong thunderstorms pelted Central Texas, producing widespread rainfall amounts of an inch to 1.5 inches.

The insurance company Allstate recently analyzed its own property-claims data and compiled a list of the 25 stormiest counties in Texas. The insurer identified its customer areas with highest frequencies of wind and hail, and lightning-related homeowner property damage claims from 2012 through 2016.

Among those Allstate customers reporting the highest frequency of wind and hail claims, Travis County ranked 15th out of the top 25; Hays County came in 17th; and Williamson was 23rd. Waco’s McLennan County was tucked in between Travis and Hays at 16th.

Allstate also looked at customers reporting the highest frequency of lightning claims and Williamson made the top 10 at 9th place; Hays ranked 11th; and Travis was 19th. Brazoria County on the Gulf Coast was in between Williamson and Hays at 10th.

 

Here’s the complete list of highest frequency of wind and hail claims:

1. Collin
2. Bexar
3. Hidalgo
4. Randall
5. Bell
6. Dallas
7. Tarrant
8. Denton
9. El Paso
10. Webb
11. Ellis
12. Kaufman
13. Johnson
14. Lubbock
15. Travis
16. McLennan
17. Hays
18. Montgomery
19. Harris
20. Parker
21. Fort Bend
22. Smith
23. Williamson
24. Midland
25. Brazoria

Here’s the complete list of highest frequency of lightning claims:
1. Smith
2. Montgomery
3. Jefferson
4. Kaufman
5. Parker
6. McLennan
7. Ellis
8. Johnson
9. Williamson
10. Brazoria
11. Hays
12. Denton
13. Harris
14. Fort Bend
15. Lubbock
16. Bell
17. Collin
18. Tarrant
19. Travis
20. Bexar
21. Galveston
22. Dallas
23. Webb
24. Hidalgo
25. Cameron

 

Could overnight storms in Central Texas mean the end of winter?

A Union Pacific train derailed early Monday morning February 20, 2017 on Texas Highway 79 North of Thrall, TX. Severe thunderstorms and high winds may have caused the multiple cars to derail. Railroad crews will be on the scene throughout the day to remove the damaged cars. The remaining train was cleared and continued northward. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A Union Pacific train derailed early Monday on U.S. 79 north of Thrall. Severe thunderstorms and high winds may have caused the multiple cars to derail. Railroad crews will be on the scene throughout the day to remove the damaged cars. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The storms that blew through late Sunday into Monday morning were yet another example of how spring has probably arrived in Central Texas — which could be a mixed blessing.

Storms like the one that probably woke you up last night are unusual for this time of year, said Troy Kimmel, a University of Texas meteorologist and instructor. Storm season typically starts weeks from now in spring, which arrives March 20, according to the astronomical calendar. But last night’s storm seems to be the clincher in the theory to which thermometers have been attesting: Winter has already come and gone in Central Texas.

“It looks like winter is over,” Kimmel said. “These temperatures are what we expect to see a month down the road.”

This week’s forecast bolsters that notion. The National Weather Service expects clear skies as high temperatures rise into the mid-80s by Thursday and remain in the 70s at least through Saturday. The last freeze was in early January. Of the 50 days since 2017 started, 35 have topped 70 degrees at Camp Mabry. Monday, whose daytime high should be in the mid-70s, will be nearly 10 degrees warmer than the norm of 66 degrees and much higher than the average temperature, which is skewed by a few unusually cold days in the past, of 56 degrees.

So break out the flip-flops, but be prepared to pull the trash can out of the road after middle-of-the-night storms.

And be prepared for downpours.

Forecasting an entire season is notoriously tricky — as a wise man once noted, predictions are difficult, especially about the future — and Central Texas just went through the kind of La Niña season that is typically drier than normal. The La Niña brought a slightly drier winter, said Bob Rose, a Lower Colorado River Authority meteorologist, but the La Niña also ended early this month.

Monday morning’s storm was surprising in part because the moisture level in the atmosphere suggested something a less intense, Kimmel said. But the atmospheric instability from the system that came out of the Pacific — a particularly “dynamic” system, Kimmel said — was like a hot pepper that gave a pot of chili an extra kick. One result was storm damage across Central Texas, mainly from straight-line winds. The Weather Service has confirmed tornado damage in San Antonio and is investigating potential tornado damage in Williamson County.

“If we have system like this one a month or two down the road, we could have some very severe weather,” Kimmel said. He added: “Our severe season seems to already be here.”

Watch: Heavy rain brings flood concern for the south this weekend

Showers have continued throughout the day Sunday in the Austin and Central Texas area and will move into Monday as more rain is forecasted for the foreseeable future. The cold, wet and gloomy weather did not deter people from venturing outside for their normal activities like this runner bundled for the elements running along a soggy trail on Lady Bird Lake near Pleasant Valley Rd. Sunday afternoon December 4, 2016.. RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
The cold, wet and gloomy weather did not deter people from venturing outside for their normal activities like this runner bundled for the elements running along a soggy trail on Lady Bird Lake near Pleasant Valley Rd. Sunday afternoon December 4, 2016.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Get ready to break out those raincoats and umbrellas.

Texas and portions of the southern U.S. region could see widespread wet weather according to a forecast from The Weather Channel.

In one of the video’s forecast maps, the Interstate 35 corridor from San Antonio to Dallas is colored in a solid block of green, signaling rain. Meteorologist Ari Sarsalari cautions that some areas may experience flooding due to heavy rainfall in a short span of time. As the first map continues its animation, the word “severe” appears across Central Texas.

Another map highlights Waco, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, pointing out the Texas cities could receive between one and two inches of rain.

Watch the full video below:

Watch top Texas weather expert explain fall and winter forecast

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South and Central Texas are probably headed for a relatively warm and dry season ahead thanks to La Niña, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecaster Larry Hopper lays out the details in a webinar posted Oct. 13. The weather service put a 70 percent chance of a weak La Niña lasting through the fall, with a 55 percent chance of one in the winter.

Hopper’s 18-minute presentation has the kind of detail that weather geeks should appreciate, but he lays things out clearly enough for a weather layperson to follow. A La Niña is a weather pattern heavily influenced by surface temperatures in the Pacific. It is basically the bizarro twin of El Niño, the pattern largely responsible for the heavy rainfall last year and earlier this year.

Unlike the unusually strong El Niño – dubbed the Godzilla El Niño – this La Niña appears to be a weak one. Hopper’s presentation is nuanced and like, all long-term forecasts, includes necessary caveats. (He’s offering a forecast, not pretending he’s been sent back in time by your future self to advise you on stock purchases.) But generally speaking, Hopper said, people should probably expect a mild fall and possibly winter, rather than one significantly hotter than usual. Flash floods remain a risk, as they usually are this time of year, and wildfires are also possible, though the ground is wet enough to mitigate the worst risks.

It’s also worth watching because Hopper explains some of the climatological phenomena at work beyond La Niña and provides a window into how forecasters weave them together into the overall forecast.

Here’s what to do at a low water crossing in Austin

Looking for flooded low water crossings in your area? The interactive map at ATXfloods is the place to check for current flood conditions and emergency road closures in the Austin area.

(Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman staff)
(Ralph Barrera/American-Statesman staff)

During severe weather, the safest thing to do is avoid the roads. But if you must drive, the city of Austin offers these safety tips:

“About 75% of flood-related deaths in Texas occur in vehicles. At night, during heavy storms, it may be difficult to see that a road is flooded. Survivors have told us that they did not even see water on the road until their vehicle stalled in it.”

DOWNLOAD: Statesman Weather app keeps you forewarned oniPhone and Android devices

Realizing that not all flooded roads will be barricaded, take the following precautions:

  • Avoid low water crossings.
  • Actively look for water over the road.
  • Turn around if a road is barricaded or if water is over the road. Keep in mind that the road may be heavily damaged underneath the flood water.

There’s high danger at low water crossings. Find out what to do if you get trapped in your vehicle in flood waters.

13-foot alligator washes up dead on Galveston beach

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Photo via Facebook Timeiki Hedspeth

In what is the second alligator to be spotted on a Texas beach over the weekend, a 13-foot gator washed up dead on Jamaica Beach near Galveston Sunday, KPRC-TV reports. Several beachgoers posed for pictures with the dead reptile, with some even sitting atop the animal.

One of the beachgoers who took pictures with the animal told Click2Houston she was concerned it might be “playing possum” and might wake up.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department spokesman Steve Lightfoot said the animal was possibly sick or old and had most likely drowned. Lightfoot said that although alligators are freshwater creatures, they will occasionally venture into saltwater to cleanse their hide.

Wildlife officials also said the gator, like the many that have popped up in unexpected places across Texas recently, could have been displaced by recent and severe flooding.

Game wardens came out and removed the carcass. Following the incident, officials recommended avoiding alligators whether they appear dead or alive.

Texas gators pop up in unlikely spots following recent flooding

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Swimmers celebrating Father’s Day on the Texas coast in Brazoria County did not expect to be joined by a 7-foot alligator. But, as the Dallas Morning News reports, the gator made his way into uncharted waters and found himself in the surf at Surfside Beach Sunday.

While the visitors went on to successfully capture and deliver the gator to a Texas game warden, who then released the reptile back into the wild, not every recent gator encounter has gone quite as well.

According to the Dallas Morning News, another gator sighting at Sylvan Beach prompted officials to close down the area and involve Texas Parks and Wildlife and lifeguards in a lengthy search that yielded nothing.

A 12-foot alligator weighing in at 400 pounds and captured in Floresville outside of San Antonio last week, was put down after officials deemed the animal’s size “an issue of public safety,” the San Antonio Express News reports.

Officials told the Dallas Morning News that recent flooding has both displaced gators and lured them into unusual waters (i.e. the ocean) because of decreased salinity.

WATCH: Alligator Captured Behind Dallas Middle School

Watch: Texas 8th-grader films frightening bus ride through floodwaters

One concerned mother’s Facebook post has incited an investigation within the Montgomery Independent School District, the Houston Chronicle reports. Karin Baker Williams took to the site to express her anxiety over a video of her son’s frightening bus ride home during a week of extreme weather in Texas.

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via Facebook/Karin Baker Williams

The short video was filmed by Williams’ eighth-grade son who can be heard muttering, “Holy crap,” to himself as his bus slowly rolls through high, rushing water.

Facebook users commented on the post to express concern over the district’s decision to move forward with school as scheduled, and the bus driver’s decision to continue driving through the flooding.

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According to the Houston Chronicle, the district has since released a statement saying the incident is being investigated and outlining their driver guidelines during flooding:

Currently, our standard operating procedures for drivers in high water situations are: stop, observe traffic (any other vehicles crossing), can you see the road (stripes/markings), is the water less than 4 inches in depth, if not, then proceed and if the water does not cross the 1st step on the bus, the driver can continue across the low water area. If the water comes across the 1st step, the driver is to stop and reverse course.

Luckily no one was injured during this particular bus ride, but the video remains a convincing reminder that it’s always safer to “Turn around, don’t drown.”

Keep up with severe weather as it occurs, here, and check out today’s Austin weather forecast.

Watch: New Braunfels flooding sweeps away Jeep

via Facebook
via Facebook

One driver could do nothing but watch as his Jeep was swept away by the raging Guadalupe River in the middle of a week of extreme weather in Texas.

Kim Jacob took to Facebook to share a video of the incident, which occurred right outside her house. According to Jacob, the owner of the Jeep parked it near a bridge when the floodwater was only knee deep so that he could go check on his tent at a nearby campground.

Jacob clarifies that the driver was warned “not to and that the canyon was going to flood.”

READ: Turn around, don’t drown: Here’s what to do at a low water crossing

The floodwaters quickly rose and “a huge wall of water came,” Jacobs wrote on her Facebook post. She then left to warn the Jeep owner, who came to watch his vehicle be washed away.

Although a sad fate for the Jeep, luckily no one was in the vehicle or injured during the incident. The video, however, serves as a reminder of the danger of water crossings and the power of flash floods. Keep up with this week’s forecasted sever weather here, and stay safe!

READ: What do flood advisories, watches and warnings mean?