Supplied photo courtesy of Charlie English
A funnel cloud passed over Wrightsville Beach on Sunday, Aug. 11 but did not touch down or create a water spout.
As the peak of hurricane season approaches, Atlantic hurricane season predictions have been updated with small reductions in the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association released the changes from the May predictions on Aug. 8, showing a 70 percent chance of an above-normal season with the possibility that it could be very active.
So far this season there have been four named storms: Andrea, Barry, Chantal and Dorian.
“Two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season,” stated Gerry Bell, lead hurricane seasonal forecaster, in a press release.
The prediction changes come from a decreased likelihood that La Niña will develop, increased wind pattern variability and lack of hurricanes throughout July.
Stephen Keebler, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said NOAA predictions are based on trending, taking what has already happened in the season into consideration.
“We’ve already had four named systems, but on average we don’t see the fourth named system until like Aug. 23,” he said. “We’re still ahead in comparison to a normal season, but not quite as far ahead as they originally thought, so that’s why they walked their numbers back a little bit.”
Historically, from 1966 to 2009, four named systems have developed by Aug. 23, and five by Aug. 31.
The prediction now calls for 13 to 19 named storms expected, including six to nine hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. These numbers are still above the 30-year averages.
“The peak is Sept. 10, so we’re rapidly approaching that,” Keebler said. “… We don’t pay a lot of attention to named storms after probably October 1, because we’ve only had one major impact [after that date] and that was Hazel in 1954, so it’s very rare for us to get a hurricane landfall after October 1.”
On Sunday, Aug. 11, around 3 p.m., during a strong thunderstorm, a funnel cloud was reported in Wrightsville Beach passing over the Intracoastal Waterway but dissipated when it reached the ocean.
“It’s not uncommon to see a funnel cloud, but there wasn’t a touchdown or a water spout, just more than anything a little bit of excitement,” Keebler said. “… Especially this time of year, when we get into the doldrums of summer, we can get water spouts developing along the coast or just offshore.”