November 30th marked the official end of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. As predicted, it presented “above-normal” tropical activity and became the fourth most active Atlantic basin season since 1950. Fortunately, only one hurricane, Idalia, made landfall in the U.S., along with two other cyclones with tropical storm intensities. The result was approximately $3-4 billion in damage, which pales in comparison to 2017, at around $300 billion.
Public and private sector organizations along the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard are surely breathing a sigh of relief, at least for now. But forecasters already have their eyes on the 2024 season, and it appears there is cause for concern.
According to a recent news report, nearly every climate model depicts a rapidly decaying El Niño event as the 2024 season approaches, which could significantly impact tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin.
El Niño, as explained by NOAA, is characterized by unusually warm ocean waters in the Equatorial Pacific. Conditions favor stronger hurricanes in the central and eastern Pacific basins and suppressed tropical activity in the Atlantic basin. El Niño deterioration and the development of La Niña have the exact opposite effect, meaning next season could be an active one.
For those involved in emergency management, the respite between the 2023 and 2024 Atlantic hurricane seasons is the perfect time to improve preparedness. Some may revisit (and potentially complete) the projects identified within their state, local, tribal, or territorial government’s hazard mitigation plan. Others might review their emergency operations plans or continuity of operations/continuity of government plans and, if possible, conduct exercises to ensure their readiness and response capabilities.
Like other natural disasters, hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions pose various threats to people and property. Strong winds, tornadoes, rough surf, and rip currents are among them, but storm surge and inland flooding have historically been the number one and two causes of loss of life during tropical events. Extreme, post-event shoreline erosion also has long-term environmental and economic impacts.
Note: NOAA estimates that a significant landfalling hurricane produces an average damage cost of around $22.8 billion, approximately five to six times the total damage valuation from the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.
As an emergency management professional, you now have a six-month window of opportunity to prepare your community for the upcoming season. It officially begins on June 1st, 2024. Colorado State University will release its outlook on April 3rd. NOAA will follow suit in May.
At BOLDplanning, a division of Preparis, we encourage you and your organization to use this time to plan ahead. If that involves continuity, emergency, and/or hazard mitigation planning, we can certainly help. Email info@BOLDplanning to learn more today.