Eye on the Sky

Be Prepared!

2021 hurricane season poised to be active.

By Paul Wilkerson

The Tropical Atlantic region is fresh off the most active hurricane season in history, with 30 named storms and 14 hurricanes, with 6 major hurricanes. While no two seasons are alike, can we expect similar results for the 2021 season?

The 2020 Tropical Atlantic hurricane season was the most active in history.

Hurricane season runs annually in the Atlantic from June 1 to November 30. It is important to note that tropical activity can occur outside of these dates, of course. Named systems have formed in May and also in December due to favorable conditions in the Atlantic Basin.  

During 2020, El Niño conditions transitioned to neutral/weak La Niña. In general, neutral and weak La Niña conditions lend to a more active season. Upper level winds during this type of El Niño–Southern Oscillation are typically light across the Atlantic Basin, resulting in a reduction in wind shear, which promotes an environment conducive to tropical development. The other piece of the 2020 puzzle was well-above-normal sea surface temperatures across the entire Atlantic, Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, plenty of fuel was available for tropical development.

For the 2021 season, unfortunately some of the conditions will mirror the 2020 season. As of press time, weak La Niña conditions were present, with the forecast calling for these conditions to continue to weaken through the first month of summer before conditions turn neutral for the remainder of the summer and into the early fall. Additionally, sea surface temperatures currently are running above normal in a large portion of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean and the Atlantic Basin. As a result of these conditions, the opportunity will exist for a significant tropical season across the Atlantic.

These are NOAA’s predictions for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

NOAA is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020. For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected.

My personal official forecast is for 20 named storms, 9 hurricanes and also 4 major hurricanes. (For perspective, the average hurricane season sees 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.) While it is nearly impossible to say with accuracy at this time, islands in the Caribbean and the United States mainland stand a high likelihood of seeing multiple land-falling systems during the 2021 season.

With the 2021 season on the horizon, it is important for all travelers to the Islands to take time to think about their hurricane preparedness plans if one should occur during your travels. It also is important to think about adding trip insurance to protect your investment. If a hurricane strikes while you are on-island, there is a significant likelihood that you will be delayed in returning to your country of origin. Also ensure that friends and family at home are aware of your travel plans and have a copy of your itinerary. If on-island and a tropical system threatens, be sure to check with your hotel/resort/villa staff to get important messages concerning what you need to do in order to stay safe. Follow all directions given, as they are there to look out for you.

For our friends who call the Islands home, it is equally important for you to go over your safety and preparedness plans with your entire family. Let your neighbors and friends know where you plan on seeking shelter should a tropical system materialize. In the lead-up to tropical systems, make sure to first and foremost follow messaging instructions from the Department of Disaster Management and Emergencies (DDME). This is the official government source for messaging to island residents. Other important entities to follow include the National Hurricane Center and the Bahamas Meteorological Agency. For unofficial information, my island weather page—Turks and Caicos Weather Info on Facebook—provides a good source of information prior to, during and post-tropical systems. Iit is important to vet any and all information you receive. In the event of a land-falling system in the Turks & Caicos Islands, my page will only post information that has been verified, in order to provide accurate and up-to-date information for citizens and travelers alike. DDME messaging will always be a significant part of facts on the weather page.

While the Turks & Caicos Islands are three and a half years removed from major Hurricane Irma, many still feel the effects of that terrible event. Understandably, many likely deal with anxiety as hurricane season approaches. With diligent planning on the front end, you can be better prepared to weather the storm should tropical weather threaten this season. For visitors, preparation and conversation about trips during tropical season will enable you to make smart decisions and ensure your vacation runs smoothly should inclement weather develop.



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Agile LeVin—photographer, explorer and chronicler of everything TCI on his website www.visittci.com—took this drone photo of the multi-textured wetlands of West Caicos. He was part of the expedition that investigated the site of the historic pirate attack in the area. For more information and photos, go to page 48.

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