HALIFAX – The Canadian Hurricane Centre is expecting a “near-normal to above-normal” number of storms in the Atlantic Ocean this year.
The United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its seasonal outlook Thursday, predicting 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine of them being hurricanes and one to four being major hurricanes.
At a briefing Thursday in Halifax, Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist at the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said normally only three to four tropical cyclones cause any concern for Canadian land or offshore waters.
“We kind of fared pretty good last year. We only had three storms that came within our response zone compared to the 17 that formed within the Atlantic,” Robichaud said.
None of the storms in 2017 made landfall in Canada.
Last year, NOAA predicted an above-average season.
A trio of devastating hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands.
Those three names, as well as Nate, have been retired because of their size and destruction.
The National Hurricane Center said Thursday a mass of low pressure in the western Caribbean is becoming better defined and will likely become a subtropical or tropical depression by late Saturday.
They’re putting the chances of formation at 80 per cent over the next five days.
The system is currently off the southeastern Yucatan Peninsula but it’s expected to move northward. Heavy rains are likely across western Cuba, much of Florida and the northern Gulf Coast into early next week.
If that system becomes a tropical storm, it will get the name Alberto.
The Canadian Hurricane Centre is encouraging Canadians to prepare for the 2018 hurricane season. The season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm enough to produce tropical cyclones.
“Right now water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are a little bit lower than average but we expect as we move into the summertime that those waters will heat up and be right around where they should be in terms of average water temperatures by the time we hit well into hurricane season,” Robichaud said.
Typically, hurricanes become of more concern in Canadian waters later in the season, however, Robichaud said it’s too early to say how Canada will be impacted this year.
“It’s impossible to say two, three or four months ahead of time exactly where these storms are going to go once they do form, because they are so dependant on the weather of the day,” he said.
Robichaud said Canadians can prepare for hurricane season by assembling emergency kits and readying their homes and properties.
— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton.