Author note: This is a corrected comparison. The original comparison incorrectly labeled the number of the named storms, hurricanes and major hurricane in an average year.
After a record breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, there is extra reason to review and examine the list of storm names for the 2021 season.
Colorado State University (CSU), a preeminent institution for hurricane forecasting, despite it's landlocked location, has forecasted for another above average season in 2021.
Highlighting this above average season is a higher than typical risk for a landfall on the East Coast of the United States and a close call with a Jersey Shore storm.
According to the report, which was released on Apr. 8 and will be updated as Atlantic hurricane season nears, there is an 11% likelihood that a hurricane, with sustained winds over 74 mph, comes within 50 miles of New Jersey. The long-term average is 7%.
Zooming out to the whole East Coast, there is a 45% chance of a major hurricane, category 3, 4 or 5, landfall between Maine to Florida, much higher than the 31% probability of landfall. In 2020, the likelihood was also 45% and Hurricane Laura struck the Louisiana shore on Aug. 27.
The 2021 Atlantic season official begins on June 1 and ends on Nov. 30. However, storms tropical or subtropical in nature can be given a name, even before the start date. For six straight years, a storm has been named in May.
The forecast calls for 17 named storms, which start at the tropical storm category. Fay in July and Isaias in August were both tropical storms when they made landfall. Eight hurricanes are forecasted, with three achieving major hurricane status. The 1981 to 2010 average has been 12.1 named storms, with 6.4 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes.
While CSU's forecast was released Apri. 8, the National Hurricane Center, the official, government, source for forecasts, will be released sometime in May.
Comparing Colorado State University's forecast to the average
Here's the list of storm names for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season
Joe's 7-Day Forecast
In early 2021, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) decided to end the use of Greek names, after the original Atlantic hurricane list was exhausted. Instead, a supplemental list of tropical cyclone names will be used, going in Latin or Roman alphabetical order (which the English, French and Spanish languages uses).
During the 2020 season, nine tropical systems were named in Greek alphabetical order. They included: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Eta, Theta and Iota.
The nine was a part of a record breaking storm system, that saw 30 named storms, besting the previous record of 28 in 2005, the only other time the Greek Alphabet was used. Numerous issues with using the previous format arose. In some countries, the names of the storms sounded too similar to each other, making it easy to misinterpret storm messaging.
Furthermore, the WMO had to grapple with how to retire storm names in the Greek alphabet, which was never done before. The rules stated that a storm using the Greek alphabet could be retired if it was significant enough. However, the storm would be reused if it came up again, adding to the confusion.
Starting in 2021, if one of the supplement storms names is retired, it will be replaced with a storm name of the same letter.
How the shore would have to evacuate for a hurricane during COVID-19
Superstorm Sandy brought thousands of people to county evacuation shelters at the Jersey Shore in 2012.
Were another Sandy to happen during a record-breaking 2020 hurricane season, government officials grapple with how evacuations will keep people not only safe but healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“An evacuation destination is the most critical component of a family’s evacuation plan, and both the pandemic and active storm season highlight the importance of a plan,” said Martin Pagliughi, director of emergency management for Cape May County.
South Jersey lived through tropical storms Fay and Isaias in July and August, respectively. However, those came and went without widespread devastation.
Earlier in the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, Cape May County issued a notice urging residents to secure a safe place to go, outside of the county, in the event of an evacuation, so as to free up space for those who truly need it.
CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — With the peak of hurricane season around Sept. 10 and social distanci…
Much of that has to do with new evacuation shelter guidance put in place by the Federal Emergency Management Association to accompany social distancing measures during the pandemic.
What used to be 44 square feet of shelter space per person is now 110 square feet. In Atlantic County, what was a 7,980 shelter occupancy limit is now down to 2,992. During Sandy, roughly 2,700 people sheltered in seven locations.
Those capacity limitations extend to transportation to and from shelters, too, with additional requirements for personal protective equipment.
“You got to get them from where their inception site is to the shelters. … That becomes a huge problem,” said Vince Jones, director of emergency management for Atlantic County.
Both Atlantic and Cape May counties have been preparing for an evacuation scenario for months. One of their biggest concerns is what happens to people who are at high risk for the worst effects of COVID-19. A few options are on the table.
Pick a sunny August Sunday, any one, at around 6 p.m.
“We’re looking at a shelter specifically for them. We’re looking at a congregate sheltering and then one where we’ll need to quarantine individuals. We never had to do that. ... How long can we support them? That’s the other thing, too. Some of these shelters will be care shelters,” Jones said.
In Atlantic County, Jones said St. Augustine Preparatory High School is its medical needs shelter. However, critical COVID-19 supplies, and ventilators, are not readily available.
“We don’t have high-end type stuff there,” Jones said.
It’s not just the evacuees who are high risk. Community Emergency Response Teams, usually at the front lines of shelters to help with people transitioning in, and other volunteers are typically in the higher-risk, 65-and-older population and may not want to assist during the pandemic, Jones said.
“County health has to be a partner with us. They’re almost going to take the lead role for sheltering for individuals,” he said.
Warming shelters will host more guests in the years to come. However, plans on the public an…
In Cape May County, the Woodbine Developmental Center is the main shelter, and would also handle those with medical needs. Upper Township Middle School in Marmora is a secondary shelter, and can also handle medical needs.
With 60% less capacity, the normal 130 people capacity gets cut to 52, said Scott Morgan, emergency management coordinator for Upper Township. Cape May County sheltered 700 residents during Sandy.
Morgan said if the Woodbine center filled up, the middle school would be the next place for county residents to go. However, the township already has its own agreements in place.
“We would definitely work with the county to make that happen (all county residents in the shelter), but we have an agreement with Ocean City to work with them first,” Morgan said.
Other parts of the United States have already had to deal with evacuating during a pandemic. Galveston County, Texas, has had to do it twice. A mandatory evacuation order was in place during Hurricane Laura, which made landfall about 100 miles east as a Category 4 hurricane Aug. 27. A few weeks later, Tropical Storm Beta prompted voluntary evacuations as it made landfall Sept. 21 about 90 miles to the county’s west.
“We talk about congregate sheltering that we had in the past, we couldn’t do that this year,” said Scott Tafuri, emergency management coordinator for Galveston County, a New Jersey native who made his way to the Texas Gulf coast after serving in the military.
Galveston County has an agreement with the city of Austin to bus residents for shelter. The county is a “non-evacuation county,” as its low elevation makes it unsafe for a permanent sheltering location.
Tafuri said preparation helped make the evacuation process smooth.
“We talked to our local health department; we didn’t have any rise in numbers due to evacuation orders. … Everything worked out well for us,” Tafuri said.
The positive result came down to social distancing and screening.
“As opposed to putting 40 to 50 people on the bus, we put 15 to 20 people on the bus, screening them beforehand, making sure that they had the proper PPE. ... We had ambulance strike teams that we had with help of the state,” Tafuri said.
Families were put into hotel rooms, and the city of Austin identified areas to put people who needed to be isolated.
Tafuri said even though the circumstances around sheltering have changed, the messaging remains the same.
“Make your plan, build your kit and stay informed. Listen to local, trusted news sources and elected officials. They’ll give you the most up-to-date, current information that they have and the best information that they have,” Tafuri said.