WILMINGTON — The Port City was spared the worst of last year’s hurricane season, but the region could face a gauntlet of storms this year.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Atlantic hurricane season – starting Thursday, June 1 – has a nearly 50 percent chance of being above-average in terms of number and intensity. NOAA is predicting as many as 17 named-storms reaching at least 39 miles per hour.
Of those storms, as many as nine are predicted to become hurricanes, with four being major storms – Category 3 or higher, with winds over 111 miles per hour.
Last year’s storm cycle was also more intense than normal, with four major hurricanes. Wilmington avoided major damage from Hurricane Matthew, but inland regions suffered from devastating flooding, causing damage that is still being repaired over six months later.
According to NOAA Lead Hurricane Forecaster Gerry Bell, rising sea-temperatures played a role in the prediction.
“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea,” Bell said.
NOAA is also predicted above-average cyclonic activity in the Pacific. More information — including a scheduled prediction update in August before peak hurricane season – can be found one the NOAA’s hurricane information page.