Tropical storm likely to hit U.S. this week as hurricane season gets off to an active start

A home is seen destroyed in the aftermath of Hurricane Delta in Creole, Louisiana, U.S., October 10, 2020. Picture taken with a drone.

Adrees Latif | Reuters

The first tropical system of the Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to make landfall in the U.S. by the end of the week, according to the National Hurricane Center, possibly bringing heavy rain and flooding from the Texas coast to the Florida Panhandle.

If the weather disturbance strengthens into a tropical storm, it would be the third named storm of this year’s hurricane season, called Claudette.

The season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The Atlantic recorded the first named storm near the end of May, when a subtropical storm named Ana formed near Bermuda. That marked the seventh consecutive year that a named storm arrived before the official start date of hurricane season.

U.S. President Joe Biden greets Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff as he visits its headquarters to receive a briefing on the Atlantic hurricane season, in Washington, May 24, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

The U.S. faces the start of an especially active season with disaster response already stretched thin. A record-shattering drought is gripping states in the West, raising fears of power outages and more severe wildfires. And residents in the U.S. Gulf Coast are still recovering and rebuilding from last year’s record number of storms.

Hurricane season is becoming longer and more intense as climate change triggers more frequent and destructive storms. Global warming is also increasing the number of storms that move slowly and stall along the coast, a phenomenon that produces heavier rainfall and more dangerous storm surge.

President Joe Biden, during a visit to Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters in May, said the agency would double spending to help cities and states prepare for extreme weather disasters, to $1 billion this year from $500 million last year.

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“We all know that the storms are coming, and we’re going to be prepared,” the president said during a briefing. “We have to be ready. It’s not about red states and blue states. It’s about having people’s backs in the toughest moments that they face, ready with food, water, blankets, shelters and more.”

There were so many storms last year that forecasters went through the entire alphabet and started using Greek letters to name storms.

An average season has 12 named storms and six hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But the agency has forecast another above-normal season this year, with 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes.

Houses sit in floodwater caused by Hurricane Florence, in this aerial picture, on the outskirts of Lumberton, North Carolina, September 17, 2018.

Jason Miczek | Reuters

NOAA said it didn’t anticipate the historic level of storms seen in 2020 for this year. There were a record 30 named storms, 13 of which were hurricanes, that battered parts of the Gulf Coast and Central America last year.

Acting NOAA administrator Ben Friedman, in a release of the agency’s 2021 forecast, said that while scientists don’t expect this year to be as busy as last year, “it only takes one storm to devastate a community.”

The 2020 storms accounted for $43 billion in losses, nearly half of the total disaster loss in the U.S. last year, according to reinsurance company Munich Re. Residents in states like Louisiana, which experienced a record five storms last year, are struggling to rebuild as this year’s season closes in.

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