Tomorrow November 30 officially marks the end of the 2017 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season. As anticipated by weather forecasters, this year’s Hurricane season was estimated to be above average, and at the start, seventeen named storms were predicted. Of the seventeen, ten became hurricanes with six of them reaching major hurricane status ranging from a category 3 or higher.
The major factors contributing to the above-normal activity included a fall in vertical wind shear and the presence of above-normal Sea Surface Temperatures in the Tropical Atlantic Ocean. Another key element was the transition from a neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) pattern at the beginning of the hurricane season to a weak La Niña by the end of the season.
The two strongest storms of the entire season were Hurricane Irma and Maria which were accompanied by maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and 175mph and minimum central pressure of 914 and 908 millibars, respectively. Both hurricanes brought about devastating effects to a few of our sister countries located within the Caribbean region, resulting in major loss of homes and other structures.
While Belize was hit by Hurricane Earl which made landfall in August of last year, the jewel was spared from becoming directly affected by any hurricanes during this season. However, two systems namely, Tropical Storm Franklin and Harvey were tracked just north of our border.
While tomorrow marks the closure of the season, it is of note that systems can also form outside of the active season such as Tropical Storm Arlene that formed in April of this year. The National Meteorological Service is advising the public to revise their 2017 hurricane plan and modify weaknesses and short-falls, so as to be better prepared if need arises in 2018.