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Tropical Storm Ana_Fotor
A satellite image of subtropical storm Ana off the East Coast on May 8. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

In a press conference on Thursday morning, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook—calling for a 90 percent chance of a below-normal season.

NOAA’s initial prediction in May was a 70 percent chance of a below-normal season. According to NOAA, the 90 percent probability of a below-normal season is the highest confidence level given by NOAA since seasonal hurricane outlooks began in 1998. The storm season started on June 1 and extends until Nov. 30.

Read related story: NOAA predicts below-normal Atlantic hurricane season

In a written statement released by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, storm activity expectations for the 2015 season are below normal with “a 70 percent likelihood of six to 10 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which one to four could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to one major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).”

These updated ranges, which include the three named storms to date — Ana, Bill, and Claudette — “are centered well below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes” according to NOAA.

Forecasters attribute the high likelihood of a below normal season to this year’s strong El Niño season. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), “a strong vertical wind shear and enhanced sinking motion across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea are making it difficult for storms to develop and are predicted to continue through the remaining four months of the hurricane season.”

Gerry Bell, Ph.D., the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, stressed that even though the likelihood of a below-normal season has increased, it’s no reason to take the potential threat of these storms lightly.

“Tropical storms and hurricanes can and do strike the United States, even in below-normal seasons and during El Niño events,” said Bell.

In an interview with Port City Daily earlier this year, Steve Pfaff, a representative of the NWS in Wilmington, agreed with Bell.

“Every year we need to prepare like this is our year, and the best way to do that is to have a plan,” Pfaff said.

Pfaff suggested the best way to stay prepared during hurricane season is to have a family plan, which includes:

  • Making sure you know the exact location of where you’re going in the event of an evacuation and not waiting too long to leave.
  • Check insurance plans and confirm that your coverage includes hail, water and wind damage.
  • Clear any debris or dead trees from your yard that could be picked up or knocked over by high wind gusts.
  • And most importantly, Pfaff said, get into the information loop and stay informed through outlets such as The National Weather Service,, and

James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD