Your Hurricane Season 2021 Forecast:
Prepare for the Storms You’ve Already Seen
Dr. Phil Klotzbach has been forecasting hurricane seasons in the Atlantic basin for decades as an employee of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University. Phil is also currently working with the Insurance Information Institute (III) as a part of their Resiliency Project, advocating for better homeowner education and flood risk awareness.
In mid-March, we sat down to talk with him about what to expect from hurricane season 2021 ahead of CSU’s official April 8 forecast release.
What Consumers and Homeowners Need to Know About Today’s Forecast Models
Technology is improving weather forecasting and flood management, but a forecast is still just a best guess.
There are many different groups that do seasonal forecasts and while they’re often in agreement, there can be some variation based on their methodology. Consumers should watch for the broad trends.
For example, one of the main predictors forecasters watch is whether the summer will bring El Niño or La Niña conditions to the Atlantic basin. If it’s an El Niño year, there will very likely be stronger winds in the upper atmosphere that tear apart hurricanes before they can form or pick up speed.
As you may have guessed, this was not the case in 2020.
“Last year was an extremely active season, with 30 storms and six landfalling hurricanes, thanks in part to La Niña conditions,” Phil said. “The question this year is whether that’s still in place or if we’re going back to neutral conditions or flipping back to El Niño. The odds of that flip seem fairly low.”
Whatever this year’s hurricane forecast predicts, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the flood assistance available to homeowners like you before, during, and after the next big storm.
What Homeowners and Communities Can Learn from Historical Storm Research
If you’re looking at this year’s hurricane forecast to tell you whether to purchase plywood and bottled water before summer arrives, Phil has concrete advice: “At least be prepared for what we’ve seen in the past. In a lot of places we’re not prepared for the things we’ve already seen. There’s a lot of value in understanding our history over the past 100 years.”
While many coastal homeowners have strong local disaster awareness from recent years, there’s work to be done when it comes to flood mitigation measures on a community level. To improve flood preparedness, cities and towns should look beyond the past decade at the major flood events of the past century. Ask:
- How has our geography changed since then?
- How have we developed this area?
- What would we do if that same event struck tomorrow?
When it comes to preparedness in the face of a changing climate, Phil says, “It’s not just about climate change or human-induced problems. Sea level rise is caused by global variations probably from natural variability and then we have human-induced warming on top of that. But we can make storms better or worse, just by implementing land use changes.”
“Hurricane Harvey in Houston is a great example of that, where we saw a tremendous amount of rain and then we saw a lot of flooding. Maybe some of that flooding could have been mitigated. There was a lot of concrete and in a lot of places, homes were built over bayous.”
By evaluating local runoff and impermeable surface areas, cities like Houston can begin to improve how they’ll fare in the next big storm and prepare for a more flood resilient future.
If you have questions about whether your home is in a flood zone, start by reviewing a few of the Frequently Asked Questions on our site.
What You Can Do to Prepare for Hurricane Season 2021
The best way to prepare for hurricane season 2021 is to get familiar with your property’s flood risk. Americans tend to underestimate their flood risk, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have the tools to better understand it on a house by house basis today.
Whatever the forecast looks like on April 8th of this year, Phil recommends preparedness: “It’s important to be prepared every year and to have flood insurance if you live anywhere with a risk of flooding.”
Even an inch of floodwater can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage, so it’s important to have appropriate flood insurance coverage and a flood mitigation plan, which may include making structural updates to your home.
The good news is that today we know how to engineer more resilient, stronger houses that can withstand hurricane winds and other hazards associated with coastal living along the Atlantic coast, and this can make a difference before and after a storm surge.
If you’re not sure whether your property is located within a flood zone, don’t wait. Check your flood risk today.
Where to Watch for Forecast Updates Throughout Hurricane Season 2021
While Phil and his team will publish their initial forecast for this season on April 8, 2021, you can check back for updates throughout the season on the CSU Tropical Weather & Climate Research website. They tend to publish updates around the first of each month throughout hurricane season, as well as less formal predictions on their Twitter accounts.
As we all wait to see if another record-breaking hurricane season is just around the corner, now is the time for education and practical preparation. Whether that’s talking to a contractor about how to elevate your property, moving your hot water heater above grade, or buying flood insurance coverage for the first time, don’t wait to make a flood mitigation plan until after the next storm hits.
Contact the team at National Flood Services with any questions about flood insurance or flood risk information today.