The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season has Started and Experts Predict Worst Hurricane Season Since Superstorm Sandy

For those on the Northeast who had to face the wrath of Superstorm Sandy, it is too soon to imagine another Sandy, let alone anything worse than Sandy. However, the reality, experts say, is that “[e]ight hurricanes are predicted for this year’s hurricane season, perhaps the most since Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey in 2012.”1

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. In 2015 the Atlantic saw 11 named storms and four became hurricanes and two became major hurricanes. What’s in store for us in 2016?

The U.S. Climate Center outlook calls for a 70 percent probability for each form of weather activity during the 2016 hurricane season:
• 10-16 named storms, which includes Alex in January
• 4-8 Hurricanes, which includes Alex in January
• 1-4 Major Hurricanes2

Meteorologists have been monitoring the weather patterns and experts from AccuWeather and elsewhere warn that those living along the Atlantic coast should be on alert. Although some experts say there’s lots of uncertainty, even a normal hurricane season would be more active than the past three years.

Memories of the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy are all too fresh. Some homeowners are still dealing with lingering effects of Sandy’s wrath. Homeowners should be prepared.

  • Insurance – Speak with your broker, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. If you don’t have a copy of your policy obtain one from your agent/carrier. Read your policy and make sure you know what you have to do in case of a loss. Keep contacts numbers together with your policy. Keep everything stored and in a safe and easily accessible location.
  • Pictures – take lots of pictures of the current condition of your home. Take as many pictures of the contents of your home, including make/model and serial number tag (if any). Visual evidence is the best method to prove the current condition of the property as well as ascertain the value of your belongings. Store all pictures on cloud based system, in case your computer/phone/camera is damaged.
  • Prepare – if your property location is prone to flooding, move any belongings to higher ground. Also, ensure that any exterior items are secured/stored to avoid damage to the items themselves and/or prevent them from going airborne and causing additional damage.
  • Be Safe – if you think there is a possibility that your home will be impacted, be prepared to leave to a place where you and your family can be safe. Always keep in mind that material objects can be replaced …whereas, … life is precious and irreplaceable.


Will Hurricanes Return to the Gulf Coast in 2016? One Model Predicts They Will

Hurricane prognostication is akin to reading tea leaves and palms to determine one's future. But, what is it about human nature that we seem to love this crazy guessing over the weather?

A picture is worth a thousand words; so, here is one model predicting that the Gulf Coast is in the path of historic hurricane destruction for 2016:

The graph was part of the lead article, It's Official - Biggest Nino Ever - Killer La Nina to Follow, found at The conclusion:

What will the coming La Nina bring us? If history is the gauge, then we should be preparing for a record hurricane season in the summer/fall of 2016, and a return to the crushing droughts in the Pacific West.

Insurance executives hate really bad weather because profits drop. Insurance adjusters, on the other hand, look at bad weather as job security. Before my adjuster friends get too excited about the aforementioned model, I would suggest you read the following posts and think about how hurricane predictions have panned out over the last decade:

Hurricane Models Not Performing

Are There Going to Be Any Hurricanes in 2009?

Rocco Calaci Contemplates the 2010 Hurricane Season

2013 Hurricane Season Officially End--Prognosticators Flunk

And the most accurate prediction over the past decade from a self-proclaimed psychic:

Psychic Predicts No Hurricanes on Florida's Treasure Coast

If any you know of any models that you can guarantee will work to predict the stock market over the next six months, my cell number is 813-695-8733.

Positive Thought For The Day:

"Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”
          ― Mother Teresa

'Godzilla' El Niño is Coming and Will Bring Rain, Mudslides, and Floods With It

As my colleague, Kenneth Kan, noted back in May in his blog post, Experts Predict a Strong El Niño This Year, climatologists have been predicting a stronger than normal El Niño for the 2015-2016 season. New data is suggesting the upcoming El Niño will be the strongest on record.

For those unfamiliar, “[a]n El Niño is an above average warming of ocean waters that form off California’s coast. This body of warm water in turn lowers the jet stream, so instead of pushing storms north and around California, the flatter jet stream sends storms straight through California resulting in an extremely wet and stormy winter.”1 To try and determine the severity of an upcoming El Niño, scientists look to the temperature of the Pacific Ocean. “[An El Niño] can be classified as “very strong” if surface waters are running at least 2 degrees Celsius warmer than average for at least three months in a row.”2

The previous record holder was the El Niño of 1997-1998, which “resulted in Southern California receiving about twice as much rain as in a normal year and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, an integral water source for the entire state, got about double the annual snowpack. But the 1997 El Niño also caused floods and mudslides throughout California and the stormy winter resulted in 17 deaths and $500 million in damages.”3

Dubbed Godzilla El Niño by the media, 2015-2016 is on track to break all records. “If this [El Niño] lives up to its potential, this thing can bring a lot of floods, mudslides and mayhem.”4 Additionally, despite the potential for significant rainfall in California, the continuing drought will still be an issue: “[O]ne El Niño winter will not make up for four years of drought. But it will be a good start in the right direction.”5

It’s not just California that will see the effects of this weather phenomenon:

In the West, a very strong El Niño would greatly increase the chances for torrential rain storms this winter…

On the East Coast, an epic El Niño could mean a very wet winter, but not necessarily a snowy one. Interestingly, El Niño increases the moisture supply in the eastern U.S., but it also tends to keep the polar jet — and all of its cold air — farther north. “The combination of these two El Niño effects sometimes means D.C. gets flooded with mild air throughout the winter, favoring rain rather than snow when moisture-laden storms come along…but, at other times, just enough cold air hangs around for it to get hammered by a crippling snowstorm.”6

While nothing is set in stone, and all of this is conjecture and prediction, I recommend that everyone take this opportunity to double check their insurance policies to make sure they have the appropriate coverages for what may lie ahead.

As always, I’ll leave you with a (mildly) related tune here’s Blue Oyster Cult with Godzilla:

4 Id.
5 Id.

National Hurricane Center's New Storm Surge Alerts

The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season starts June 1st. This year, Gulf and Atlantic coast residents that have a significant risk of life-threatening inundation by storm surge from a tropical cyclone will receive a new set of alerts from the National Hurricane Center.

Currently, the National Hurricane Center issues tropical storm and hurricane warnings and watches. However, new this year are storm surge alerts for any location where water may rise at least 3 feet (91 centimeters) above normal. The National Hurricane Center will issue surge watches 48 hours in advance and surge warnings 36 hours before a cyclone makes landfall.

What is the reason for these new alerts about storm surge? Hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings are mostly about a storm’s wind. However, storm surge, is a wall of water that a tropical storm or hurricane can push onto a shoreline. Policyholders who filed Hurricane Katrina and Sandy claims know the ramifications of this all too well.

You can read more about the new storm surge alerts at the National Hurricane Center’s web site.

The program is an experimental phase and after the 2015 hurricane season is over, officials may make changes in the future such as to the number of feet or the manner in which the storm surge alerts are conveyed to the public. However, this does not mean the alerts should not be heeded.

Recent Publications Indicate Lighter Storm Season Prediction for Southern States

Although I handle cases around the country, I live in Houston and naturally pay more attention to weather conditions in and around Texas. As a result, I paid particular attention to a few recent publications that predicted a lighter storm season this year for the southern United States.

El Niño versus La Niña

Surprisingly enough, a recent study indicates that weather in the Pacific Ocean, of all things, provides an indicator for the upcoming southern United States’ storm season. The recent publication in Nature Geoscience noted that if the Pacific enters an El Niño phase, a warming of the ocean’s surface, there may be fewer destructive storms across the South. Likewise, if the ocean cools to a La Niña state, the number of twisters may rise.

The Insurance Information Institute says tornadoes in the southern states accounted for 37.2% of all insured losses in the U.S. from 1994 to 2013. These losses trail only hurricanes and tropical storms as the leading causes of loss across the country for that time period. The Climate Prediction Center also published predictions that El Niño conditions should last through 2015. Accordingly, it seems we can expect a lighter storm season in the southern US.

What Does This Mean For Me?

Before we get too excited about the lighter storm season being predicted for us here in the South, let’s stop and remember how many weather predictions often come to pass. In the meantime, an easier storm season might also provide us the opportunity to be ready for a worse one in 2016. Whichever the case, continue hoping for the best while making preparations to be ready if a storm loss hits you.

Motivational Poster Of The Day

Sharks - The Hurricane Trackers and Forecasters of the Future

Have you heard about the newest and most unique way that researchers are tracking and forecasting hurricanes? Scientists are using sharks and other large marine life to help predict the formation and course of hurricanes.1

Researchers from the University of Miami have tagged 750 marine animals in the past ten years or so to track temperature and salinity of sea waters at different depths. With satellite-linked sensors, the researchers receive data from the sharks when they surface from dives. The information received is important for tracking and projecting hurricanes and forecasts. For example, some tarpon studied were following a line of water that was 79 degrees. The same temperature of water these fish preferred matches a minimal preference for tropical storms. Knowing the temperature of water and ocean energy that is available to fuel a storm is critical to predict the strength and development of storms.

This research is in an early stage of development, but it will be interesting to see how it develops and the role it will play in hurricane forecasting. We could call it hurricane forecasting by the locals!

It seems like early on in the hurricane season those of us that live in hurricane zones review the predictions to see what lies ahead in the upcoming months. I always remind everyone how important it is to stay prepared each hurricane season and to treat each one like there could be a major hurricane whether the forecast appears to call for one or not. After all:

[A]s they say about sharks, it's not the ones you see that you have to worry about, it's the ones you don't see.
    – David Blaine.

1 Could Sharks Help Researchers Predict Hurricanes? (Last viewed 6/22/14)


2013 Hurricane Season Officially Ends--Prognosticators Flunk

Hurricane prognosticators have hit an embarrassing low in 2013. Zero, zip and nada is what happened. They predicted just the opposite with at least 11 major storms predicted to strike. Shaun Marker noted the high predictions in Kloztbach and Gray Predict Hurricane Season Well Above the Historical Average for the Last Century.

Zac Anderson of the Sarasota Herald obtained an admission that those professional prognosticators should get an “F” for 2014:

We had an absolutely massive bust," said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project. "It's a huge error, but when you're forecasting the weather there are always going to be years that really throw you. We'll try to learn from it and improve it going forward.

Meteorologists try to emphasize that the forecasts are simply an educated guess. Klotzbach said he can only account for roughly 40 to 50 percent of the variables that affect hurricane development and intensity.

Humbly, yours truly had it right in Hurricane Season 2013, where I noted the infamous Merlin Law of Probability and stated the following:

The 2013 Hurricane Season is just around the corner. I normally do not worry much about early season hurricanes because the "big ones" normally do not start rolling until August. Still, this time of the year a number of prognosticators release their predictions about the upcoming hurricane season. I suggest a better use of one's time is spent thinking about the types of insurance coverage you have. Further, you should prepare your homes, businesses, and yourself for a hurricane catastrophe. The Merlin Rule of Probability states that the odds of a hurricane striking you decrease with the more insurance coverage you buy and the better you prepare for its occurrence. Insurance agents and disaster preparedness companies should quote me in their sales presentations.

I bought a 10th floor condominium this year which is a few minutes from the Tampa office and is on the water. I also bought flood insurance on it. Unless an Armageddon like 100 foot tidal wave strikes, I am never going to collect on that policy. But, following the Merlin Law of Probability, the odds are extraordinarily favorable to Tampa being spared from that catastrophe.

All this hurricane season talk has me thinking about a favorite Jimmy Buffett song, Tryin' to Reason with Hurricane Season:

Hurricane Season 2013

The 2013 Hurricane Season is just around the corner. I normally do not worry much about early season hurricanes because the "big ones" normally do not start rolling until August. Still, this time of the year a number of prognosticators release their predictions about the upcoming hurricane season. I suggest a better use of one's time is spent thinking about the types of insurance coverage you have. Further, you should prepare your homes, businesses, and yourself for a hurricane catastrophe. The Merlin Rule of Probability states that the odds of a hurricane striking you decrease with the more insurance coverage you buy and the better you prepare for its occurrence. Insurance agents and disaster preparedness companies should quote me in their sales presentations.

So, what exactly is Hurricane Season? Wikipedia states:

The Atlantic hurricane season is the period in a year when hurricanes usually form in the Atlantic Ocean. Tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic are called hurricanes, tropical storms, or tropical depressions...


The basic concept of a hurricane season began during 1935, when dedicated wire circuits known as hurricane circuits began to be set up along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, a process completed by 1955. It was originally the time frame when the tropics were monitored routinely for tropical cyclone activity, and was originally defined as from June 15 through October 31. Over the years, the beginning date was shifted back to June 1, while the end date was shifted to November 15, before settling at November 30 by 1965.

I am fortunate to have some Wizard's lineage that helps when it comes to the hurricane prediction business. As proof, just read When, Where and How Big are the Windstorms of the 2009 Hurricane Season?

Still, my best advice is to remember the Merlin Rule of Probability. You cannot go wrong if you follow it.

Kloztbach and Gray Predict Hurricane Season Well Above the Historical Average for the Last Century

Each year around this time I do my best to keep your attention while discussing the approaching hurricane season and what it could bring. We know from experience there is never a good time to begin thinking of such things, and in actuality, many of us try to put off thinking of the potential for natural disasters. There are so many other things going on this time of year like spring break and the excitement of summer right around the corner, do we really have to think about the negative things Mother Nature can dish out? With some out of the ordinary landfalls the last couple of years, it seems we should all pay attention and do our best to be prepared.

Each year around this time, a famous forecasting team from Colorado State University releases forecasts for the impending hurricane season. This year, they predict a 72% chance at least one storm will strengthen to a major hurricane and make landfall somewhere on the United States’ coast. The following prediction is the one that grabs my attention; the 2013 hurricane season is expected to have 95 named-storm days, with 40 of those days occupied by a hurricane.

Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, of CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science, call for eighteen named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes of Category 3 or greater strength during the2013 Atlantic hurricane season. They predict a 48% chance of a major-hurricane landfall on the East Coast of the United States and a 47% chance a major hurricane strikes one of the Gulf Coast States, including the West Coast of Florida.

These probabilities are well-above the historical average for the last century, according to the report.

Of course, trying to predict Mother Nature is as close to an impossible task as one could surmount. Particularly when trying to predict it months ahead of time. However, the forecasters will be releasing updates to their predictions on June 1st and in August. Just in case you’re curious, last year the CSU team in August predicted fourteen named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. In fact, there were nineteen named storms, ten hurricanes and two major hurricanes during the Atlantic Hurricane season.

For those near the Coastal regions of the United States, now is the time to prepare. Do not be caught off guard or unsure of insurance coverage. Review policies to confirm coverage, discuss other available coverage with insurance agents/representatives, photograph the insured property before any event, conduct basic maintenance like tree trimming and debris removal, and obtain peace of mind knowing that proactive steps have been taken. You can even locate loss consultants who may be able to assist with preparations.

Tropical Storm Isaac Update

From my home office, the weather is beautiful: sunny skies and a light breeze blowing through the palm trees. Yesterday was also a picture perfect day in most of Florida, but the Bay area is now under a Tropical Storm Watch as all eyes keep a close look on Isaac. The nice morning weather we are having today should not lull Floridians and others in coastal states from taking precautions. Tropical Storm Debbie was a great reminder that a windstorm, even with a lower classification, can cause evacuations and loss of life.

If you have been following our blog, you may be familiar with guest posts by Rocco Calaci, a noted meteorologist expert witness in the Hurricane Katrina legal wars.

Just this morning, I received an update on Tropical Storm Isaac from Rocco, and the information warrants sharing with our readers.

(*Note from Rocco Calaci: I started issuing a "plain talk" interpretation of National Hurricane Center bulletins at the beginning of the 2008 hurricane season. I remind everyone that this is strictly a courtesy, I have no affiliation with any government agency, this is not a commercial service and the information is not for any type of decision. It is strictly FYI).

Supplemental Weather Newsletter
August 25, 2012

Good Morning,

There isn't a lot to talk about this morning concerning Tropical Storm Isaac. Overnight, the storm moved over the western portion of Haiti and will start being dragged over the mountains of Cuba today.

Here is a satellite image of Isaac as it moved onshore in Haiti last night.

All the models are bunched together and Northwest Florida is the target area. For the past 12 hours, the models have been in strong agreement concerning the track of Isaac for the next 4 days. The key to this show of agreement is having a solid fix on the center of the storm.

On Thursday, the NHC could not get a firm idea on the storm's center; therefore we saw model results from Miami to Houston and the NHC track moved westward at an alarming pace. I noted that the NHC always said they were having difficulty centering the storm and we knew that the model results were extremely mis-leading.

One thing of note...everyone is always screaming that the ECMWF model is superior to all isn't. The ECMWF has failed all year during tropical situations.

As any tropical system develops, trying to locate where its' center is, can be exhausting as we saw from Tuesday through Thursday. Everything is based on the center of the storm. As the old saying goes...garbage in, garbage out.

It's still my belief that the folks at the NHC and NWS are over-tasked, undermanned and definitely under-funded, but that's not our concern right now.

Now that there isn't any disagreement on where Isaac is heading, we have to turn our attention to the expected wind speeds at landfall.

At the moment, I'm hearing TV types talking about Isaac being a low Category 1 at landfall next Tuesday. Don't believe it!

Folks on TV aren't reading the NHC advisories correctly. Here is the wind forecast from the NHC as of 4:00AM CDT this morning.

48H 27/0600Z 25.0N 81.8W 70 KT 80 MPH
72H 28/0600Z 27.7N 84.9W 80 KT 90 MPH
96H 29/0600Z 30.5N 86.0W 70 KT 80 MPH...INLAND

On Tuesday morning, 1:00 AM CDT, (28/0600Z) Isaac is projected to be 150 miles South of Destin Florida with a sustained wind speed of 90 miles per hour. This would be a high Category 1 hurricane.

The next wind forecast isn't until 24 hours later, after Isaac has made landfall and the expected winds are sustained at 80 miles per hour. This is how the NHC issues wind speed forecasts at days 3, 4 and 5...24 hours apart.

The NHC doesn't state the highest winds to only be 90 miles per hour, but I know many other TV sources will make this mistake.

This also means that from early Tuesday morning until Isaac is within a few miles of landfall, the wind speeds can (and will) increase. As I've been saying, I'm looking at a hurricane hitting Northwest Florida as a high Category 1 or low Category 2 hurricane.

All day Tuesday, weather conditions are going to deteriorate...increasing clouds, winds getting stronger and spiral bands whirling through with heavy rains. For some strange reason, it seems that the worst conditions caused by hurricanes always occur at night...Hurricanes Opal, Ivan Katrina, Ike, etc.

As for wind gusts...that's a real crapshoot. Let's use a sustained wind speed of 95 miles per hour as an example. Sustained wind speeds are defined as the highest 1 minute average for hurricanes.

The gust factor for hurricanes starts as low as 115%, all the way to above 160%. This means you take 95 miles per hour and multiply it by the gust factor to determine the highest wind gust.

There lies another problem...wind measuring equipment is not located everywhere. The highest wind gust could occur at the beaches of Sandestin and it would never be recorded.

So here is my forecast as of now...high Category 1/low Category 2 hurricane upon landfall. Sustained winds between 92 to 100 miles per hour and wind gusts between 105 to 115 miles per hour.

Can any of this change? Certainly...if Isaac does something unexpected, or if the water temperatures are warmer/colder than anticipated, wind speeds can definitely change.

On Monday, I'll be issuing some things everyone needs to know, such as what to do if you see an incoming waterspout or a tornado on land. Believe it or not, many people have strange beliefs about what really occurs during a hurricane and I want all of you to understand what is really happening.

For family and friends, from Mobile to Panama City...get ready. Make sure you secure outdoor items, have plenty of gas in your car, lots of cash in your pocket.

Since I'm comfortable with what Isaac is doing and the forecast, my next newsletter will be tomorrow morning...unless the entire situation changes.


Even Though NOAA Has Predicted The 2012 Hurricane Season To Be "Less Active" Than Recent Years, Hurricane Preparedness Should Be Taken Seriously

The official start of hurricane season was June 1st. This time of year marks the start of summer, means kids are done with school, and thoughts of summer vacations and summer camps may consume everyone’s spare time. Hurricane preparedness often takes a back seat. However, those that devote just a little bit of time for preparedness will be ahead of the game if and when a hurricane disaster strikes.

For the entire six-month season, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says there’s a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (with top winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (with top winds of 74 mph or higher). Of those, one to three will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5. Based on the period 1981-2010, an average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

So the 2012 Hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin is predicted to be average, and “less active” than recent past years. But all it takes is one storm for a problem. Even before the “official” start of the 2012 season, Tropical Storms Alberto and Beryl formed. Last season was an active one, but many storms stayed out in open water, turned at the last minute, or ventured into unusual territory, like Hurricane Irene heading up the East Coast of the United States and affecting New Jersey and New York.

Even with the more favorable hurricane predictions this season, residents of coastal regions are encouraged to take steps to prepare to avoid a last minute scramble and being caught off guard. Develop an emergency plan for your household/business/community; load up on water, non-perishable food, and flashlights; and get a disaster supply kit. Steps should be taken to review policies to confirm and verify coverage, discuss other available coverage with insurance agents/representatives, photograph the condition of insured property, conduct basic maintenance like tree trimming and debris removal, and obtain peace of mind knowing that proactive steps have been taken.

Do not assume that everything is set with your property insurance coverage. Pull out the folder from your records and look for the coverage verification page and make sure that all of the dates and coverage amounts are what you need. If there are any questions, contact your insurance professional immediately.

The Hurricane Forecast for the 2012 Season has Changed: Be Prepared

William Gray and Philip Klotzbach, weather experts at Colorado State University, have updated their original April projections to include an increased number of named-storms for the Atlantic cyclone season.

As highlighted in this CNN report, Philip Klotzbach and William Gray, of Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science, have increased their forecast of 10 named tropical storms to 13. Importantly, they say five of those storms will be hurricanes (with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph or above), an increase from four hurricanes in their April forecast.

Their prediction that two major hurricanes will form remains the same.

The probability of one major hurricane hitting any part of the U.S. coastline is 48%, they said. The average for the past century has been 52%.

The CSU forecasters note that the two May tropical storms, Alberto and Beryl, are included among the 13 predicted for the season. Interestingly, the experts stated the two early storms do not portend anything for the rest of the season. Nonetheless, it is important to prepare.

Visit the National Weather Service Hurricane Center (NHC) for information on what to do if a storm threatens your area. Information on how to assemble an emergency kit is also included.

Meteorologists Predict 2012 Will Be A Relatively Mild Hurricane Season for the Atlantic Basin

On April 4, Doctors Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, of Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorlogy Project, released their Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2012. In summary, they predict:

We anticipate that the 2012 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have reduced activity compared with the 1981-2010 climatology. The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and it appears that the chances of an El Niño event this summer and fall are relatively high. We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean. However, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

Their detailed analysis, past forecasts and verifications are available at

The Real Tropical Hurricane Season Begins

Ferocious hurricanes most often strike the United States in late August and September. Tropical waves and weather disturbances are commonplace this time of the year. Each could potentially become dangerous and threaten the United States. People should check their hurricane preparedness plans for last minute preparation. The way I look at the weather map, there could be hurricanes on the way in the next eight days, if not sooner.

There are currently three tropical weather patterns that pose concern. The largest is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and some trajectories suggest it could land in Florida next week. Here is the current weather map:

I suggest that readers take the time to read Preparation for the Hurricane Season Includes Insurance and Risk Reviews and pass it on to their friends. While I indicated in Chip, Where Are the Hurricanes Going to Hit?, that it is difficult to predict where these monsters will land, the odds seem to favor a major strike this year.

Take precautions and be safe.

Chip, Where Are the Hurricanes Going to Hit?

The title to this blog post was the question asked of me yesterday by a Houston insurance defense attorney. The path of Tropical Strom Emily may give you an idea of my answer to that question.

The honest answer is nobody knows. I hope these massive destructive forces miss all of us.

I can’t foretell where the next hurricane will hit. While we opened our Texas office just before two massive hurricanes hit Texas in 2008, I do not expect similar catastrophes will strike near our two newest offices in Denver or Los Angeles anytime soon.

Still, I do note that in a July 28 article, Planning for the Big One, Yevgeniy Sverdlik wrote about California:

Undeterred by forecasts of the imminence of 'the big one', companies continue building data center space in the region. Players that have brought new space online last year, or are readying to come online this year, include QTS, CoreSite, Vantage and Server Farm Realty.

The region sits on the line where two tectonic plates meet: the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate. As the Pacific Plate tries to move northwest and the North American Plate tries to hold it back, energy accumulates until it is unleashed in the form of an earthquake.

Between the region's eight active faults (the points where these plates touch), cumulative probability that an earthquake of magnitude 6.7 or greater will hit between 2007 and 2036 is 63%, according to the US Geological Survey.

So what is my advice? If you are in California, buy a lot of earthquake coverage. If you are in the Southeast, buy a lot of windstorm and flood coverage.

Then, listen to this song about the summer of Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Hurricane Models and SB 408

The Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology (FCHLPM) recently approved catastrophe modeling firm Risk Management Solutions’ new hurricane model. The FCHLPM, an independent body of experts, was created by the Legislature in 1995 to develop standards and review hurricane loss models used in the development of residential property insurance rates and the calculation of probable maximum loss levels. The “experts” include engineers, meteorologists, actuaries, insurance academicians and the insurance consumer advocate. They review hurricane loss models submitted by various modelers.

What are hurricane models and why are they so important? A hurricane model is a very complex computer program. The programs simulate and predict how, where and when hurricanes form, their wind speed, intensity and size etc., their track, how they are affected by the terrain along the track after landfall, how the winds interact with different types of structures, the damage they can cause to house roofs, windows, doors, interior, contents etc., how much it will cost to rebuild the damaged structures, and how much of the loss will be paid by insurers. The models are then purchased by insurers and used to determine the premiums charged by insurance companies for hurricane risk.

In this field, Florida is a national leader. The FCHLPM subjects all the models submitted by the various modelers to rigorous review before they are approved. The models MUST be approved by the FCHLPM before the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation will allow its use in a rate filing. Hardly any other state has such a process; most states simply accept models that are approved by the FCHLPM. During my time on this Commission, I was consistently impressed with the knowledge and competency of the FCHLPM. The complexity of these modeling programs can not be overstated. Unfortunately, few are aware of how the FCHLPM impacts how much Floridians pay for insurance.

The new model that was recently approved, according to reports, will increase reinsurance costs.  These increased reinsurance costs are exactly the sort of costs that SB 408 allows insurance companies to charge an additional 15% for. Granted, this increase is linked to complicated hurricane models and offshore reinsurance companies; but it is still a rate increase. It has not even been a month, and consumers are already beginning to feel the negative effects of SB 408.

Inside the Storm - Hurricane Warnings provided by Hurricane Hunters

This week, Claims Journal reported on the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron. They told the story of the 1944 bet that changed the way we receive severe weather data and warnings.

Back in 1944, Lt Coronel Duckworth made a bet that he could fly an American single engine aircraft into a hurricane without the plane falling apart. This was the start of the Hurricane Hunters. Duckworth was a former airline pilot who taught the Army Air Force how to fly through bad weather during the war. Among other things, he taught pilots how to reduce risks through skill, knowledge and careful planning. Duckworth was successful in the bet and realized he could collect valuable weather data from inside the storm.

Duckworth’s challenge has now evolved into the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron of the US Air Force Reserves. Today, this Squadron is based out of Kessler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi, and flies ten Lockheed-Martin WC-130J aircrafts into the eye of storms to gather weather data for the National Hurricane Center.

When a storm is beginning to form, the National Hurricane Center sends these Hurricane Hunters to investigate the system. The Hunters determine if it is a closed system with winds rotating in a counterclockwise position and gather information on the severity of the storm. The planes fly in between 500 and 1500 feet above the ocean’s surface for a low level investigation but increase the height for more major storms -- 10,000 feet is the entry point for a Category 3+ Hurricane. As the Hurricane Hunters approach the strongest winds of the Hurricane they gradually turn into the wind, this is called crabbing, until they punch through into the calm eye of the storm. The aircrafts, without any special reinforcements, are suitable for these missions.

DropesondeWhile in the storm, an aerial reconnaissance weather officer collects data from the storm environment. The data is collected from aircraft sensors every second. Once in the center of the storm “sondes” are released from the aircraft. The sondes provide an atmospheric profile to the Hunters and collect the data within the storm the same way as a weather balloon works, except sondes collect the information while dropping down to the ocean.

As the sondes are falling, and until they hit the water, a rate of twice per second, they send temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction readings. The weather officer on the aircraft is then able to send the information back to the National Hurricane Center with the exact latitude and longitude of the storm and analyze if the storm is getting stronger or weaker.

The data collected inside the storm is very valuable. The National Hurricane Center estimates that this data is 30% more accurate than projections gathered without going into the storm. The data allows the Hurricane Center to provide better information to citizens and more accurately order evacuations. The Hurricane Hunters have the ability to provide the most accurate forecasts and paths of the storms. Satellites are good detectors of storms but because they can’t determine interior barometric pressure or exact wind speeds, could be indicating a Category 2 storm that might really be a Category 3.

Hurricane Season starts in eleven days and this year as you watch the weather and wait for updates from the National Hurricane Center, you can now visualize how the information is gathered. The Hunters are required to be prepared to handle three different storms in one day, scoping the storms twice daily to make sure the most accurate weather data is available to the public.

If you are curious about what it would be like to fly into a storm, the Hurricane Hunters provide a Cyber Flight Demonstration on their website.

The 2011 Hurricane Season Is Predicted To Be Above-Average In Activity In The Atlantic Basin

Currently, many people may be focused on Spring-break vacations and thinking about the start of summer being right around the corner. There are some experts who are focused on another thing -- predicting Hurricane activity for the 2011 Hurricane season. The official start of the hurricane season is June 1st in the Atlantic Basin. This is just over six weeks away and the 2011 Hurricane predictions are in from the Colorado State University forecast team. While they slightly reduced their prediction from the one issued in December 2010, the forecast team is calling for an active season for 2011.

For the past twenty-eight years, the Colorado State University forecast team has issued predictions for hurricane activity utilizing a forecast scheme that relies on decades of historical data. The hurricane team’s forecast is based on the premise that certain ocean and atmospheric conditions - such as El Nino, sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, etc. - that preceded active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past can provide meaningful information about similar conditions that may occur in the current year. As one could imagine, it is not an exact science, but rather a best estimate of activity to be expected during the upcoming season.

The forecast predicts that hurricane activity in 2011 will be approximately 175% of the average season. Following are some bullet points of the prediction for a major hurricane making landfall on U.S. soil:

  • A 72% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2011 (the long-term average probability is 52 percent);
  • A 48 % chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31 percent);
  • A 47% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30 percent); and
  • A 61% chance of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean (the long-term average is 42 percent).

Probabilities of tropical storm-force, hurricane-force and major hurricane-force winds occurring at specific locations along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts are listed on the Landfall Probability website. The site provides U.S. landfall probabilities for 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to Eastport, Maine.

What these predictions mean for residents of Coastal regions of the United States in hurricane zones is that now is the time to begin to prepare. Steps should be taken to review policies to confirm coverage, discuss other available coverage with insurance agents/representatives, potentially photograph the condition of insured property before any event, conduct basic maintenance like tree trimming and debris removal, and obtain peace of mind knowing that proactive steps have been taken. In the meantime, stay tuned to this blog for periodic updates as the Colorado State University team and other experts issue additional discussions on the 2011 hurricane season.

We Are Not Out Of the Woods Yet For the Atlantic Basin's Impressive Showing in the 2010 Hurricane Season

With the twists and “turns” that this hurricane season has challenged us with so far, those of us in Florida and the Southern United States have been fortunate. There have been a few close calls this 2010 season, and for the first time since 1926, we witnessed two category 4 systems in the Atlantic basin at the same time. Hurricane Igor battered Bermuda and may have an effect on the Eastern coastline of Newfoundland, which is predicted to be next in its path.

High pressure systems have diverted disaster from the United States coastline, so far this hurricane season. However, we cannot stress enough the importance for people living near the coastline not to let their guard down. A good motto to live by is to “be prepared.” Hurricane season continues for more than two months, and many late-season hurricanes, such as Wilma in 2005, have caused tremendous damage. This chart shows that we have just passed the height of hurricane season, but it reveals that hurricanes and tropical storms frequently strike late into the season and through the end of October.

Many Floridians are very familiar with this chart and know that the absence of hurricanes making landfall before September is not particularly indicative of the final seasonal outcome. Some of the more memorable hurricanes making landfall during this time frame include: Andrew (August 1992), Charley (August 2004), Donna (September 1960), Frances (September 2004), Jeanne (September 2004), Kate (November 1985), Katrina (August 2005), Ivan (September 2004), and Wilma (October 2005).

Please be aware of these facts during the remainder of this hurricane season and ensure that proper precautions are taken.


  • Battery-operated radio
  • Flashlights
  • Extra batteries


  • 3 gallons/person, minimum, in a food-grade, plastic container
  • Additional water for sanitation

Food: Minimum 3-day supply of non-perishable food that requires no refrigeration, or preparation

First Aid Kit: (one for your home and one for each car)

See: for a more thorough list of essentials and precautions.

So Far So Good in Hurricane Season--Will Igor Change Everything?

We have been lucky so far this 2010 Hurricane Season. Strong northern turns have moved powerful hurricanes away from Gulf and Atlantic shores. Next Friday, I might be writing something else as Igor moves towards the United States.

Here is its current combined trajectory for the next several days:


Let's hope it also starts that right hook.

Since we won't know if Igor is going to effect us until it gets closer, it seems this song may be fitting for everybody with Friday night on the mind:


Sinkholes Remain in the News While Eyes are on Hurricane Earl

Since 2004, the majority of our law firm's large insurance battles have focused on hurricane loss insurance disputes. It is not surprising that we are getting phone calls from people asking whether our firm will open offices somewhere between North Carolina and Boston as Hurricane Earl is projected to hit that area. I was surprised by a recent newspaper article that indicated our firm "specializes" in sinkhole losses.

The Ocala Star Banner ran a story last week, "Insurers Say Sinkholes Impact Marion Market." The introduction in the first paragraph of the following exerpt is an exaggeration of our practice:

William “Chip” Merlin, president of Tampa-based Merlin Law Group, which specializes in sinkhole claims, said population growth and development is more to blame for rising sinkhole claims.

“Number one is population growth,” Merlin said. “We're seeing more structures in rural areas that are prone to sinkhole activity. Number two, we're seeing more in farm areas because of irrigation. With more development we're not going to see a decrease, we will continue to see an increase.

Another factor, Merlin said, is how difficult it is to deal with insurance companies when it comes to sinkhole claims. “Yes, we are seeing more claims,” Merlin said. “It's much more difficult to collect payment so more people are going to attorneys.”

The Merlin Law Group does not specialize in sinkhole claims. We represent policyholders with insurance disputes. A small portion of those claims involve sinkhole claims. Since most of our practice involves disputes with property insurance at issue, we represent many policyholders with sinkhole claims. Indeed, as I wrote this, two attorneys in our firm are in the third day of trial regarding a sinkhole loss that the insurance company has denied.

Floridians have a much more difficult burden to prove and collect for their sinkhole damaged properties than in the past. Several changes to the statutory laws limiting how, what and when the insurance companies pay their customers for sinkhole losses have passed the Florida legislature. The insurance industry wants even more burdens and restrictions for policyholders, even limiting representation. To justify this, they have lobbied the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation to find "data" to limit policyholder choices and opportunities when faced with a sinkhole claim.

I am writing this while embroiled in a two day mediation for a large Texas school district involving a Hurricane Ike loss. Some may consider a school district with dedicated legal counsel, architects and building construction employees to be a sophisticated client. The truth is that if these policyholders are having trouble collecting and are having to retain professionals such as us, policyholders with sinkhole damage need professional help even more, given the current complex state of the law.

In the interim, Hurricane Earl has a windspeed map that must be concerning to those living on the Eastern seaboard.


If Earl wobbles just a little to the west, you don't have to be a NASA rocket scientist to figure out somebody is going to be welcomed as a new member of the slabbed storm surge association.

The Hurricane Katrina Five Year Anniversary is Noted as New Hurricanes Lurk in the Atlantic Ocean

The media is trying to scoop each other on the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. In State Farm's hometown of Bloomington, Illinois, the Pantagraph ran a story about State Farm's Hurricane Katrina litigation. A massive and unfinished novel could be written on that subject. I found the article by Ryan Denhem, How State Farm Fought Through the Second Storm, to be far too light an analysis of some of the most important insurance coverage litigation ever waged.

State Farm was the major personal lines insurance company along the Mississippi coast when Hurricane Katrina hit. At its moment of truth -- when it had to decide whether to give its customers the benefit of the doubt and pay for Slab claims, State Farm's highest claims officers decided to deny those claims. The story inaccurately says that State Farm won this battle. It lost, and its loss would have been a financial catastrophe, but for a dubious ruling by the Federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which allowed State Farm to escape punative damages.

Still, I found State Farm to be a very able opponent during the Hurricane Katrina litigation and said so in the article:

State Farm is known for taking a broader view of each disputed case than other insurers, said Chip Merlin, a Florida attorney who said he's handled hundreds of Katrina claim cases, including many State Farm customers.

"It's about what (the case) might mean not just today, but five years from now," said Merlin, who only has a half-dozen cases still pending. "They're very worthy adversaries."

The story is not quite complete because a qui tam case involving State Farm catastrophe claims adjusters is set for trial in December. In that case, State Farm allegedly overpaid flood claims to reduce payments it owed under all risk policies.

While all this nostalgia is going on, there are new dangers lurking in the Atlantic. As correctly predicted in Tropical Waves off Africa Indicate a Need for Concern, Hurricane Danielle has formed and another very strong wave seems destined to become a hurricane as well. Regarding the second wave, the National Hurricane Center has this to say:


Five years ago, I was in pretty good shape, getting ready to run a marathon in a Boston Marathon qualifying time. Today, I am again getting ready to run a marathon, but my ever aging body is heavier and losing its get up and go. Given all these sanguine memories, lost abilities, frightening anticipations, and hopes for surprising happy endings, this seems a very appropriate ending to the post:

Tropical Waves off Africa Indicate a Need for Concern

The water is warm, the wind sheer is declining, and it is late August. For those along the southern coastal areas, it is important to monitor waves of weather off the African coast for the next six weeks. The most active part of hurricane season is upon us. There is reason to be concerned.

A couple of days ago, BobbiStorm of Hurricane Harbor cryptically noted that it "looks like we have a swimmer to me." For those that do not follow her wacko rhetoric as often as I do, the interpretation is that she thought a classic hurricane would be forming off the African coast. Her prediction appears to be right. Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog confirmed that:

A tropical wave (Invest 95L) in the far eastern Atlantic about 350 miles southwest of the Cape Verdes Islands has become more organized this morning. Satellite loops show that the wave has some rotation, and heavy thunderstorm activity has increased in recent hours, after a period overnight with little change. Water vapor satellite loops show that there is some dry air to the north of 95L, but this dry air currently appears to be too far away to significantly interfere with development. The main impediment to development is the moderate 10 - 20 knots of wind shear over the system. The shear is forecast to remain in the moderate range through Monday, then decrease. This should allow 95L to develop into a tropical depression Monday or Tuesday. NHC is giving 95L a 30% chance of developing into a tropical depression by Monday morning. With 95L's recent increase in organization, these odds should probably be 50%.

If it forms into a hurricane, the name will be Danielle. It only seems fitting to play a video from Danielle Peck, whose song could add Hurricane Danielle to a list of things that are bad for us:

For Property Adjusters Working on Friday as "Miller Time" Approaches

Every now and then, I check Hurricane Harbor just to see what this hurricane prognosticator is predicting. Her rather bizarre Blog reads the way a few of my friends will sound a little later tonight:

Out in the Atlantic are three possible centers from a long, spread out ...wide area of convection. Let's call them Larry, Moe and Curly and I'm figuring none of them are going to make it to prime time unless they have a sex change operation or are cross dressers in which case Danielle may come out of hiding though she is progged to be a fish storm. Amazing...not even here on the maps and already written out of the script.

So... these are my thoughts…

If you are burned out from Colin or simply wishing on the weekend... I'd like to bring up a few topics before storms start popping and we can't remember we were bored, lethargic or afraid the whole season is going to be a bust.

According to Long Term models supposedly Danielle and Earl are down the road about to pop.... either in the Atlantic or close in around the Gulf… if Earl does the Gulf again I may lose it ;)

Fishy or not... think there is a sense here that they are all gonna be weak storms or fish storms and there is almost a dread to get invested in an invest because it's not going to be much but some wishy washy fish storm and barely more than a Tropical Storm

I say not... I say we are losing it to the hype that was the Mother of All Seasons and because we have yet to see any storm hit a home run we think this is all too boring to deal with .... a bunch of players walked with the bases loaded and suddenly the inning is over....

Well, I'm a Red Sox fan and we tend to stick around for the whole season...

My sport is football but I think this is a better analogy.

September Remember is the saying and it's a saying for a reason... we will remember this September I believe...and October.

So question?

How does this heat wave get unstuck.... note to people here who whine and complain we all want storms and death and destruction....there are more deaths from Heat Waves than Hurricanes and Tornadoes statistically. I'd fear the heat more than a Category 1 or 2 storm ...or even a 3.

I do not know whether heat waves are truly more lethal than hurricanes, but I am happy not to be in Russia this summer. The evening weather broadcast would be a lot more colorful if Bonnie were explaining it.

And, here's to hot Friday nights:

Hurricane Watching on the Internet

Guessing where a hurricane is heading is not an exact science. Those predictions are much better today than in the past due to better hurricane modeling. Via television, everybody can get constant updates on The Weather Channel. As Tropical Storm Bonnie approaches the oil drenched areas of the Gulf of Mexico, I wanted to share a few Internet sites I visit to quickly get an idea about what is going on and, if I have time, some fun.

Rocco Calaci has taken time to write as a guest meteorologist on this blog. He has a web page listing sites and even tips for policyholders. Here are the sites he suggests for hurricane meteorology:

The buoy data can be very revealing when a major storm is accompanied with storm surge. I was on the phone with Doug Branham of Colonial Claims before Katrina hit. He alerted me to the huge wall of water that eventually washed away parts of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama based on this information.

Jeff Masters WeatherUnderground Blog and Hurricane Terrapin are the two quick sites I watch. I strongly suggest that the Discussion made by the National Hurricane Center be read to better understand how the professional meteorologists are viewing the accuracy of their predictions and expectations. The Discussions are on either of these two sites.

Finally, for some off the wall fun, I have long kept bookmarked BobbiStorm's Hurricane Harbor blog. For instance, this is how she concluded last night's post:

Either she intensifies or gets downgraded... that's my guess. And, expect to see that track pulled back to the north a bit more as Bonnie is being pulled more to the north around the flow of the Upper Level Low and it's an interesting storm... that's all I'll say. Each in it's own way is interesting.

Miami is amazing. Breakfast at Bayside this morning and hunkered down for a Hurricane Party tonight... low key party, no liquor... lots of cherries and designer water ;)

Sweet Tropical Dreams... Bobbi

Speaking of a party, the weekend is almost here and this nostalgia should help get you in the mood:



Bracing for the Worst - Understanding Business Interruption Claims, Part 29

Yesterday, Rocco Calaci posted a blog entry announcing that La Niña conditions are already being observed. While I dare not attempt to explain the mechanics of these conditions, it is generally understood that La Niña is a climate phenomenon that is marked by an unusual cooling of the sea surface in the Pacific Ocean, which in turn affects wind and weather patterns globally. It is also generally said that these conditions foster more frequent and stronger storms in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, NOAA has forecasted 14 to 23 named storms, of which 8 to 14 are expected to be hurricanes and 3 to 7 major hurricanes during this season.

While no one can predict the future, we all can at least prepare for it. In his blog post, Mr. Calaci correctly warned:

This year has already produced 2 tropical systems early in the season. We are receiving a warning loud and clear. Please take time to make hurricane plans. Inventory your belongings. Make necessary changes to your insurance policy. Many folks have their property under-insured, don't let this happen to you. If you need to increase your insurance limits, then do so...don't expect the insurance companies to know your needs. This is your responsibility.

From a Business Interruption perspective, these forecasts should not be taken lightly. For those who do not regularly keep up with this blog, I suggest you read Learning from Other’s Mistakes – Understanding Business Interruption Claims – Part 15 to learn how a catastrophic loss could run a business to the ground without the possibility of recovery despite having adequate insurance coverage. For those keeping score at home, I suggest you read it again.

The best business interruption claim is one that is planned for in advance of a loss. In other words, the success of a business interruption claim after a catastrophic loss will most likely depend on how well prepared the business is to handle an interruption event. Many companies have emergency response plans, which include team coordination and responsibilities. However, many small businesses barely have such response plans in place.

I recently came across an article in CAT Claims: Insurance Coverage for Natural and Man-made Disasters – Chapter 10- Proving Business Interruption Losses, where the authors suggested that many businesses should consider having an “insurance recovery team” as part of their response plans, where the team would work in tandem with risk managers and attorneys in order to address issues such as preservation of evidence to prove insurance coverage and causation, as well as the costs incurred in responding to a loss and the interruption event.

The article suggests a few pointers worth sharing:

• At the first team meeting the risk management personnel or the broker should brief the other team members on the scope of the coverage provided in the policy to insure that everyone has a clear understanding of what is covered and what type of documentation is needed to support a claim. Documentation will include accounting documents for all loss related expenses, budget/forecasts, accident reports made by the company, etc.

• The operations representative should review the loss event and the impact that it will have on the business. As this is early in the process it is unlikely that all the effects will be identified and the discussions should address the worst case and the likely case [scenarios].

• The accounting representative should inform the team on how the normal accounting process would respond to the event and what additional steps will need to be taken to capture the information needed to substantiate the claim to an adjuster.

• The planning representative will need to review the budget and model that is used for forecasting income and expenses. This [step] is critical as BI claims are based on theoretical calculations of what the business would have made as income had the event not occurred. The risk management personnel broker and claim consultant need to have a good grasp of this prior to communicating with the insurance adjuster. The adjuster’s first report to the underwriter sets the stage for the claim and correcting any misunderstanding in this first opinion is very difficult.

• The team, with the input of the claim consultant should develop the initial strategy for the handling of the claim along with setting up the schedule for the next meeting.

• The legal representative should advise the team on confidentiality issues and assist in the analysis of subrogation potential as the facts surrounding the event become known.

The reality is that many small businesses can only dream of having such an organized team in place to assist it before or after a loss. However, carefully following the highlighted pointers should, at minimum, give the business owners or managers an idea of the value of its claim and the period of time it will take to bring the claim to a successful conclusion and, hopefully, to a full resumption of operations.

Rocco Calaci's Tropical Update - July 2010

(*Chip Merlin's Note--Rocco Calaci has been a noted meteorology expert witness in the Katrina Legal Wars. Click here to read his previous guest blogs)

In late April and May 2010, I wrote about the La Niña situation in the eastern Pacific Ocean, how it would develop, and its impact on the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season. One reason the forecast numbers for potential hurricanes is above average is due to the expected La Niña.

In today's paper, NOAA issued a possible La Niña alert. NOAA announced that the conditions for La Niña were developing, and this scenario would be prevalent by August to September and extend into the beginning of 2011.

I'm here to tell you that La Niña isn't coming in August because it is already here. A quick check of water temperatures off the coast of Central and South America (Pacific Ocean side) shows that the temperatures for this region are almost 1.5 degrees Celsius colder than average. The chart below is current as of July 8, 2010. 

For a La Niña situation this is very cold, and, if this theory is correct, it should prove to be quite a hurricane season for the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico areas.

The various forecasts from the National Hurricane Center show between 14 to 23 named storms this hurricane season. With a strong La Niña, I expect to see storms at the higher end of the predicted range.

The chart below shows how the numerical models are looking at La Nina conditions to persist into next year.

Typical La Niña conditions result in hotter temperatures in the South and fewer tornadoes east of the Mississippi. Remember, these so-called "typical" conditions are based solely on statistics from an era when there was little or no knowledge about El Niño/La Niña situations.

The two busiest hurricane seasons on record (1994 - 1995) occurred during La Niña conditions. At the same time, don't overlook the fact that 2008, (Hurricane Ike) occurred during La Niña conditions and the infamous 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) happened during La Niña.

This year has already produced 2 tropical systems early in the season. We are receiving a warning loud and clear. Please take time to make hurricane plans. Inventory your belongings. Make necessary changes to your insurance policy. Many folks have their property under-insured, don't let this happen to you. If you need to increase your insurance limits, then do so...don't expect the insurance companies to know your needs. This is your responsibility.

As I said, the La Niña predictions are based on statistics. Sometimes the numbers are totally wrong, but it doesn't hurt to prepare...just in case the numbers are correct.

--Rocco Calaci

Are There Going to Be Any Hurricanes in 2009?

I get asked that question quite often. Doing what I do for a living, given my last name, and having proven my prognostication prowess (with money backing up my opinion) by opening our Texas office BEFORE the first of two major hurricanes to hit Texas, I can understand why many come to me for that answer rather than professional meteorologists and psychics. I am not betting on any “major” hurricanes this year. El Niño seems to be preventing tropical storms from making the trek across the Atlantic Ocean. Upper level wind shear has been destroying the movement towards the coastal United States and Gulf regions. Let’s hope it stays that way. And, as I suggested in May with a post, Weak El Nino and Cooler Tropical Waters Lead to Predictions of Fewer Hurricanes, who really knows?

There are two recent and very interesting posts regarding hurricanes worth reading. One is found on Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog regarding storm surge misconceptions. Everybody should read this important discussion of storm surge. Dr. Master’s correctly noted:

The storm surge is usually the most dangerous threat of a hurricane. The ten deadliest U.S. hurricane disasters, including the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 (8000 killed), the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 (2500 killed), and Hurricane Katrina of 2005 (1833 killed), were all primarily storm surge disasters.

He then listed and discussed a number of storm surge misconceptions:

Misconception: Call 911 and you can be rescued, while the water is pouring into your home.
How? No one will be able to get to you. Water rises quickly--sometimes six to ten feet within minutes; cars can't drive in it, and it is usually unnavigable by boats when it is coming ashore.

Misconception: Just stuff towels under the door jambs. Then rush around to start picking up things that are close to floor level, so you can save them.
Bad idea. In a minute or so the surge will burst open the door, and instead of standing in a room with four inches of water, you'll be knocked off your feet and into whatever piece of furniture is closest, and will suddenly be in three or four feet of moving water that you can't make any headway into...just before the refrigerator, quickly rushing through the water towards you, knocks you cold.

Misconception: You'll be able to maneuver around in the rushing water.
Probably not. Some people who drowned were not even able to get out of the room they were in, when the water started pouring into the home. The speed of water in surge can be equivalent to a Class III or IV rapids (Class V is hardly navigable by expert kayakers and canoers, and Class VI is not navigable at all).

Misconception: You'll know in time.
The surge is usually not a wall of water as is often assumed, but rather a rapid rise of water of several feet over a period of minutes. It can sneak in unexpectedly, on little cat feet. Most people that were not completely taken by surprise simply happened to look out the window at the right time.

Misconception: You can outrun the storm surge in your car.
Here's an email I got last year from a resident in the Florida Keys who ignored the evacuation order for Hurricane Ike in 2008: I hate to bother you again, but we live on Marathon in the Florida Keys on the Atlantic side, and my husband says that if we see water coming up from storm surge and have an inch of water in our house, that we can outrun the storm surge in our car. Can you please tell me if there is any way this can possibly be true? P.S., I don't know of anyone who lives down here who is planning on evacuating for Ike. Everyone says they are staying. If you wait until the water is an inch high before trying to outrun the surge, the odds are that the surge will rise to over a foot high before you get your car out of the driveway. If the water is a foot high, the typical 10 - 15 mph speed of the storm surge's current has enough force to sweep a car away. In many places along the coast, there is only one road out of a low-lying region prone to storm surges, and the surge will cut off one's only escape route. The Keys have only one road, and the storm surge will likely be moving perpendicular to the road, cutting off the only escape route. One of these days, there are going to be a lot of people who fail to evacuate caught and killed in the Keys by the storm surge from a major hurricane.

The other post, Tornado Threat Increases as Gulf Hurricanes Get Larger, verifies a number of observations that a Guest Columnist, Rocco Calacci, has made in six previous posts to this Blog. Those posts are:

  1. Is The Saffir-Simpson Scale Still Relevant
  2. Hidden Causes of Hurricane Damage: Meteorologist Rocco Calaci Explains That Hurricanes Are More Than Just High Winds And Water
  3. Part 2: Hidden Causes of Hurricane Damage: Meteorologist Rocco Calaci Explains That Hurricanes Are More Than Just High Winds And Water
  4. A Call To Reassess How We Gauge Damage From Hurricane Winds
  5. Rocco Calaci Questions Current Models Used to Determine Wind Damage
  6. Tropical Storm Erika? - Rocco Calaci Gives His Plain-Talk Interpretation of the National Hurricane Center Bulletin

Rocco will be giving an update on the wind speed data this Friday at our seminar, Hurricane Ike--What a Difference a Year Makes, on September 11, 2009. The Insurance Journal article noted:

Currently, it's well known that when hurricanes hit land, there's a risk that tornadoes may form in the area. Until now, no one has quantified that risk because observations of tornadoes were too sporadic prior to the installation of the NEXRAD Doppler Radar Network in 1995. Belanger along with co-authors Judith Curry, professor and chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Tech and research scientist Carlos Hoyos, decided to see if they could create a model using the more reliable tornado record that's existed since 1995.

The model that they developed for hurricane-induced tornadoes uses four factors that serve as good predictors of tornado activity: size, intensity, track direction and whether there's a strong gradient of moisture at midlevels in the storm's environment.

"The size of a tropical cyclone basically sets the domain over which tornadoes can form. So a larger storm that has more exposure over land has a higher propensity for producing tornadoes than a smaller one, on average," said Belanger.

While some may suggest that tornado activity is well accepted, I have sat across from Dr. Max Mayfield and debated this topic at a Windstorm Conference. The better the measuring devices are becoming, the better we understand how some very unique strong winds and gusts are more prevalent than previously thought in hurricanes.

Weak El Nino and Cooler Tropical Waters Lead to Predictions of Fewer Hurricanes

Hurricane prognosticators are still trying to beat psychics at the game of hurricane prediction. As I indicated in two past posts, When, Where and How Big are the Windstorms of the 2009 Hurricane Season? and Psychic Predicts No Hurricanes On Florida's Treasure Coast, both scientists and psychics claim credit when they accurately predict a hurricane season and blame mother nature when they are wrong. Sounds a lot like the stock brokers I have known. released its revised forecast (”guess”) even before the Hurricane Season has started. This possibly could mean they are unreliable and have lost before the game has started. They now expect that there will be fewer named storms. Why should we pay attention to this forecast if they already admit they were wrong?

Nevertheless, here is the basis for their brand new forecast:

“AccuWeather predicts three tropical storms will hit the U.S. coastline, including two hurricanes, one of which could be at least category 3 strength.

Anywhere along the U.S. coast is susceptible to an impact, but the Texas coast early in the season and East Coast from Carolinas northward during the heart of the season are areas that have us worried," said Bastardi in a statement.

A weak El Nino pattern of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is expected to create wind shear to blow apart storms while cool water in the tropical Atlantic ocean will rob the storms of their primary energy source as dust and dry air blowing from Africa will inhibit storm development, AccuWeather said.”

I will try to contact the psychic I referenced above to see what she thinks. I imagine that her basis for a change may be no better than the meteorologists, but it may be much more interesting.

Stay tuned.

And seriously, now is the time to check that policy.

When, Where and How Big are the Windstorms of the 2009 Hurricane Season?

Ever since last year, when I accurately predicted the hurricane season, people have been asking me these questions. I even put my money where my mouth is by placing our new office in Houston last June--before the hurricanes. Regarding my powers of prediction, it is better to be lucky than good. And, being in a Wizard's lineage helps. Unfortunately, Chambers of Commerce are not hoping we pick their town for our next office.

The archrivals of my beloved Florida Gators have a new hurricane study that is surprisingly academic. Normally, the Seminoles of Florida State University have a level of thought more akin to my post, Psychic Predicts No Hurricanes On Florida's Treasure Coast. Instead, Ryan Maue has an excellent discussion of this study on Steve McIntyre's Climate Blog regarding the reasons why we have seen a decrease in worldwide tropical cyclone activity over the past several years and why hurricane prediction is more Wizardry than science:

"Under global warming scenarios, hurricane intensity is expected to increase...., but MANY questions remain as to how much, where, and when. This science is very far from settled....Many papers have suggested that these changes are already occurring especially in the strongest of hurricanes, e.g. this and that and here, due to warming sea-surface temperatures (the methodology and data issues with each of these papers has been discussed here at CA, and will be even more in the coming months). The notion that the overall global hurricane energy or ACE has collapsed does not contradict the above papers but provides an additional, perhaps less publicized piece of the puzzle. Indeed, the very strong interannual variability of global hurricane ACE (energy) highly correlated to ENSO, suggests that the role of tropical cyclones in climate is modulated very strongly by the big movers and shakers in large-scale, global climate. The perceptible (and perhaps measurable) impact of global warming on hurricanes in today's climate is arguably a pittance compared to the reorganization and modulation of hurricane formation locations and preferred tracks/intensification corridors dominated by ENSO (and other natural climate factors). Moreover, our understanding of the complicated role of hurricanes with and role in climate is nebulous to be charitable. We must increase our understanding of the current climate's hurricane activity."

(emphasis added)

A chart in Maue's paper looks similar to my stock portfolio's recent performance: