A new warning has been issued for Florida residents and tourists in the Sunshine State as the Atlantic hurricane season officially begins.
Residents of the southern and eastern parts of the United States are all too familiar with the Atlantic hurricane season, which begins on June 1 and runs through November 30 each year, though tropical disturbances, tropical depressions, tropical storms, and full-fledged tropical cyclones or hurricanes can form outside of those dates. Storms can range in duration and intensity, as well as in the amount of damage they cause.
The threat posed by the churning of the Atlantic Ocean and the development of storms brings about a variety of concerns for those closest to areas where tropical storms and hurricanes often make landfall. One of the biggest concerns for those affected is about how strong the storm will be, as hurricanes often gather strength, growing in intensity as they travel across the open ocean.
The most dangerous storm is a Category 5 hurricane, considered a “major hurricane” (along with Category 3 and 4 storms) for its potential to cause “significant loss of life and damage,” according to the National Hurricane Center. Over the years, there have been 39 Category 5 hurricanes on record. Of those, one was recorded in the month of July, eight occurred in the month of August, 21 in September, six in October, and only one in November.
Another major concern for those often affected by the moodiness of the Atlantic hurricane season has to do with where they are located in relation to the hurricane’s cone. Per the National Hurricane Center, “the cone represents the probable track of the center of a tropical cyclone and is formed by enclosing the area swept out by a set of circles along the forecast track (at 12, 24, 36 hours, etc.).” Those who live in Florida are interested in the cone, and they want to know if the cone shifts, grows larger and whether their home is located inside the cone.
Florida tourists, like those who travel to visit the Walt Disney World Resort, are concerned with the cone as well–especially if the Disney Resort hotel where they’re staying is located inside the cone.
But a new warning from a senior hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center identifies a common practice by Floridians that could endanger them and their families. And it has to do with residents being hyper-focused on a hurricane’s cone. In a post from WESH, Floridians are reminded that “it’s important not to get too caught up in this one piece of data” as it can put families in harm’s way.
“The cone is about the center of the storm, you know, the uncertainty with the position of the center, it does not relate to the actual hazard,” Blake said.
Such was the case in September 2022 when Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida. Hurricane watches and warnings extended well beyond the cone, as did storm surges.
“We’re taking the traditional cone, which everyone is aware of with, and we’re starting to layer it with these newer products that help convey the size of the storm, for example,” said Jamie Rhome, the deputy director of the National Hurricane Center. Rhome says work is being done to create better ways for the NHC to share risks inside the cone and outside the cone with the general public.
“The cone doesn’t work by itself,” Rhome explained. “And so simply changing the cone is not a solution you have to look at the entire suite of products that we use to convey risk and figure out how to move them forward sort of in tandem.”
The hope is that once those changes are made, residents will look at more than just the cone when making decisions about how they’ll prepare for an approaching storm.