(*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 about six weeks, the 2010 hurricane season will begin. As most of you already know, the National Hurricane Center and Dr. William Gray are predicting an "above average" year for hurricane activity. This was similar to last year’s forecast for the 2009 hurricane season and we had a very quiet year. This year should be different.

In 2009, the El Niño effect developed in the eastern Pacific, resulting in a very slow year for hurricanes. As of today, April 13, 2010, the eastern Pacific sea temperatures are approximately 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal…a moderate El Niño situation.

The temperatures in the eastern Pacific have been dropping and forecast numerical models agree that by the end of August, sea temperatures will cause a "neutral" zone, thereby having no effect on Atlantic hurricanes. Some models go as far as predicting an El Niño zone, causing Atlantic hurricanes to become stronger. Of course, it is much too early to know exactly what will occur. Remember, numerical models are only as good as the data input.

Normally when an El Niño situation occurs, the northern Gulf Coast and southern Florida should experience wetter than normal conditions. Up to today, the northern Gulf Coast is well behind in rainfall, but South Florida is above monthly averages. El Niño was also supposed to cause warmer than normal conditions along the northern Gulf Coast, yet we had a winter with much colder than normal temperatures. This goes to show that you can’t rely on statistics alone.

As with previous years, I will explain in laymen’s terms what the National Hurricane Center is forecasting. I will also provide an update of the upper level weather situation and an outlook of how well the National Hurricane Center is performing.

Here are some points of interest for everyone:

  1. Have a hurricane evacuation plan.
  2. Review your insurance policy and determine of you have enough insurance coverage. After Hurricane Ike, I found that the majority of folks were under-insured on their properties. Don’t expect the insurance companies to pay you more than what you have insured your property for. You may have to pay more for additional coverage, but it’s better than not having enough to cover potential losses.
  3. Inventory your belongings on paper and video, if possible. Again, my experience shows that the majority of homeowners do not take this step prior to a hurricane hitting their area.
  4. Understand your responsibilities as a policyholder. Insurance companies have thousands of customers and can’t spoon-feed every policyholder; policyholders should take responsibility for their own belongings and contractual obligations. You can’t expect your insurance company to do its part if you don’t do yours.
  5. Pay attention to bulletins from the National Hurricane Center and your local authorities. In 2008, the initial thought was Hurricane Ike would strike the East Coast of Florida and it wound up in Galveston, Texas.

Everyone knows the danger and devastation that comes with a hurricane. Please protect yourselves, your families and your property.

Rocco Calaci