National weather forecasters are predicting a "near-normal" to "below-normal" 2014 Atlantic hurricane season — but warn that vulnerable coastal communities still need to be prepared for any severe storms.
“One storm can wreak tremendous havoc,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Kathryn Sullivan on Thursday as the agency announced its predictions during a news conference in Brooklyn.
NOAA is predicting 13 named storms during the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, with one to two possibly becoming major hurricanes. The season lasts through November.
Eight of the 13 storms forecast for 2014 are expected to have winds of 39 mph or higher; three to six could have winds of 74 mph or hour, making them hurricanes; and the one or two that could become major hurricanes are forecast to have winds of 111 mph or higher.
NOAA's experts said the hurricane season is expected to be tempered by two factors: The probable formation of El Niño — an "oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific" — and by cooler Atlantic temperatures.
The forecast does not predict landfall.
The predictions were made public at the Brooklyn headquarters of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, where officials emphasized lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy.
“Superstorm Sandy reminded us that loss of life and property during a tropical storm doesn’t necessarily come about from wind and rain,” Sullivan said. “Very often it comes about because of the storm surge.”
The surge reached 9.41 feet in Battery Park City during Superstorm Sandy, which city officials characterized as a hurricane-level event.
With lessons from Sandy in mind, NOAA announced new maps that can give earlier warnings of rising tides so that communities can be evacuated ahead of any catastrophic storm surge. The maps will be updated every six hours during a major storm.
City officials also announced a new campaign to ramp up hurricane preparedness called “Know Your Zone,” where residents can learn which of six evacuation zones they live within.
The campaign will include ads on subways, ferries and in newspapers, as well as on coffee cups and social media.