With as many as four major hurricanes projected this Atlantic hurricane season, Jacksonville leaders spent Wednesday morning holding a final refresher before the season begins.
Mayor Lenny Curry and Mayor-elect Donna Deegan stood shoulder to shoulder in the Prime Osborn Center stressing the importance of Duval County residents knowing their evacuation zone and having an emergency plan this hurricane season.
“Right now, people need to know their zone,” Curry said, a day before hurricane season officially begins. “You don’t want to be looking for your zone if there is a pending evacuation order. Know your zone, prepare your kit. This is the time to get ready today.”
Evacuation zones can be found at JaxReady.com.
Curry and Deegan were among nearly 40 elected and appointed officials who listened to projections about the Atlantic hurricane season and the importance of properly alerting the public to storms.
Angie Enyedi with the National Weather Service Jacksonville says the biggest factors in determining whether a hurricane season could be above normal: warm ocean water; active African monsoons where thunderstorms move off the African coast; and the presence of El Nino or La Nina conditions in the atmosphere.
In an El Nino, the Pacific jet stream shifts south. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, during an El Nino the Gulf Coast and Southeast are wetter than usual and there is an increased opportunity for flooding.
However, during an El Nino season, the number of tropical systems that threaten Northeast Florida is less than during a La Nina or a neutral season, largely because wind shear impedes the development of storms.
Enyedi also emphasized that a forecast track including a cone of possibility is for the center of a storm and not the area it could potentially affect.
She used Hurricane Ian as an example of a storm that wobbled on its way toward land but remained within its forecast cone.
Ian devastated Southwest Florida with sustained winds of about 140 mpg last September. Locally, it brought sustained winds of 46 mph in Mayport with gusts as high as 64 mph.
Duval County saw tropical storm force winds twice last year. But, the severity of the winds does not dictate the effect of the storm.
“That’s a term and terminology we need to be careful about: ‘it’s just a tropical storm’ because we can still have significant impacts, regardless of the category of these systems,” Enyedi said.
Tropical Weather Outlooks this season will include seven days of information. That is an increase from the five-day forecast previously.
Deegan said there is value with the additional two days of information. She said it’s vital to consume information from trusted sources.
“Pay close attention to the warnings, to the advisories, to what these teams are saying,” Deegan said. “We’ll be looking at these storms, obviously, closely. Now, there is a seven-day outlook instead of a five-day outlook so we will be looking even earlier.”
She notes that being married to a meteorologist gives her an appreciation for how quickly things can change during a weather emergency.
Local officials encouraged people to find additional information from JAX Ready, the National Hurricane Center or the National Weather Service.
The Weather Service projects as many as 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and four storms with winds more than 111 mph.
“Yes, we’re expected to go into near-normal activity for the inland basin this upcoming tropical season, but, Enyedi said, “it just takes one.”