After disappointing year, hurricanes look to regroup in off-season

Don Kiebels

It’s been a tough year for hurricanes in the Atlantic as the season officially ends.

In what was originally predicted in May by experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to be a near- or above-normal season, this year’s squad of storms was surprisingly plagued by inconsistency and, ultimately, failed to reach what it believed was its full potential.

“We just didn’t get it done. I blame myself,” said Tropical Storm Arlene, the first named storm of 2023. “I was the first to form, and maybe I wasn’t ready. But the bottom line is, as the lead-off storm it’s my job to get it started for the guys who come after me. And I didn’t do that.”

With El Nino, the rotation of the earth, and more people than usual peeing in the Atlantic causing warmer waters, we’re fairly confident there probably will be between zero and 100 hurricanes this season,” said Dr. Ida Kneaux, chief administrator of the NOAA, predicted in May.

Coming into the season, expectations were especially high among experts.

Eric Norman, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), stated that the preseason outlook called for a 60-percent likelihood of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. Though, these predictions are not in line with the ones first released by the organization back in May.

“It’s obviously been hard on the storms this year,” Norman said. “While there were some memorable performances from a few storms it’s not at all how they wanted the overall season to go. But they’re a group of veteran weather patterns that have been around for over 4 billion years, so this isn’t their first bump in the road. They’ll be back.”

Norman noted that season predictions are not an exact science and are more of an estimate based on how much alcohol their interns can drink.

There were plenty of reasons the hurricanes didn’t get it done this season: lack of timely air currents, over-reliance on warm water, systems that couldn’t duplicate what they had done in previous years, the massive carbon emissions from New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s globe-trotting, and bean-filled farts from the Central America caravan of immigrants that caused massive wind shear.

The bottom line, though, is the season fell well short of the expectations of the storms.

“We didn’t put ourselves in a position to be successful. The warm water was there. I guess we just didn’t want it bad enough,” said Category 4 Hurricane Franklin, the first major hurricane of this season.

“I thought for the majority of the season we created a number of opportunities for ourselves and we took advantage a few times but we just didn’t finish. When you look at our overall production, the number of hurricanes, and the strength of them, we fell short of our own goals. It’s disappointing.”

The season started sluggishly with storms Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Gert, and Emily all causing no to minimal damage. But the meat of the lineup gave the squad a spark with systems Franklin, Idalia, Lee, and Ophelia collectively producing at least $3.09 billion in damages. Aside from those pulses of life, the remaining storms just couldn’t finish the season strong. Tropical Storms Philippe, Rina, and Sean, along with Hurricane Tammy, and Tropical Depression Twenty-One at cleanup, all completely whiffed, causing zero damage and no deaths.

“Look, since 1995, we’ve put some high-quality squads out there. We’ve had above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 22 years, but obviously, this just wasn’t our year,” said Idalia, the season’s leader in damage with more than $2.5 billion produced and the only hurricane to make landfall in the United States.

The squad has a lot of work to do this off-season to get back into contention for memorable storms.

“We’d certainly like to start off stronger next year,” said Hurricane Ophelia, a strong but short-lived tropical storm that flashed potential as it impacted the East Coast while producing the season’s second-most amount of damage at $450 million.

“We have a challenging off-season ahead of us, but we’ve got a solid, hungry group here and I think we’ll learn from what happened this year and do whatever we can to avoid it from happening again. We’ll get these things corrected.”

Looking ahead to the 2024 season, storms that reportedly have an interest in possibly joining the lineup next year to beef up the damage-production include Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Francine, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Milton, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, William, and Jeff Landry.