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Hurricane Season Begins

Forecasters predict three to five major hurricanes this season.
NOAA Images
Forecasters predict three to five major hurricanes this season.

The 2021 hurricane season begins with a forecast that's slightly above average, but not as bad as last year's record-setting number of named storms.

Today, June 1, is the traditional first day of hurricane season. This week is also South Carolina Hurricane Preparedness Week.

According to National Weather Service Hydrologist Leonard Vaughn, each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the NWS establish new normals for the number of tropical storms and hurricanes that will form that year. The recent average was 14 named storms per year, with seven becoming hurricanes and three of those becoming major hurricanes. This year it’s a bit higher, Vaughn said.

“They’re predicting 13-20 named storms. And out of those 13-20 storms, 6-10 are predicted to be hurricanes. And then out of the 6-10, three to five actually are predicted to be major hurricanes.”

Vaughn inserted a bit of good news with that slightly elevated prediction. “But because we don’t have the La Nina effect that we had last summer, which gave us the most active summer in recorded history - which was 30 named storms - they don’t expect the season to be quite as active as last year.” Still, he cautioned, “as we all know, it only takes one hurricane to hit your area, and that makes it a bad season.”

At the South Carolina Emergency Management Division, spokesman Derrec Becker stressed preparation, not only this week, but every week. He listed ways for South Carolinians to prepare for a hurricane.

“First and foremost, review your safety plans,” he said. “Have some way to stay connected. If you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, know what zone you’re in. A brand-new website,


can help you do that. It can take you through all the steps you need to build your hurricane plan, to identify what zone you’re in and to get your plan in place in case a hurricane threatens South Carolina.”

Becker said people should have a hurricane kit containing supplies that they use every day. These items include:

- Non-perishable food and water, enough for the family for at least three days

- Batteries

- Pet food, medications, leashes and other pet supplies

- Your own medications

- Personal papers such as insurance policies

One item people may tend to forget, said Becker, is CASH. If power outages are widespread following a storm, ATMs might not work.

The number of storms has increased in recent years, Vaughn said, and one reason is because hurricanes occur in cycles of high and low activity. He offered some light at the end of the tunnel as possible relief from the frequency, if not the severity, of these hurricanes. “These cycles usually last about 30 years or so, and the cycle that we’re currently in is a high activity cycle which…began in the late 1990s. We’re about two-thirds of the way, so it looks like at some point, hopefully in the near future, that we would be returning to a more low-activity cycle for tropical activity.”

According to the hydrologist, NOAA has some new “toys” it is bringing out this year to help gather more information about hurricanes: drones, sail drones, hurricane gliders, global drifters and Alamo floaters, all equipped to transmit new measurements to hurricane scientists.

Becker stressed that people in South Carolina’s Midlands, Upstate and other areas in the interior should be as prepared as coastal dwellers for hurricanes, because they too can see hurricane effects such as high winds, heavy rains, flooding and even tornadoes.

Tut Underwood is producer of South Carolina Focus, a weekly news feature. A native of Alabama, Tut graduated from Auburn University with a BA in Speech Communication. He worked in radio in his hometown before moving to Columbia where he received a Master of Mass Communications degree from the University of South Carolina, and worked for local radio while pursuing his degree. He also worked in television. He was employed as a public information specialist for USC, and became Director of Public Information and Marketing for the South Carolina State Museum. His hobbies include reading, listening to music in a variety of styles and collecting movies and old time radio programs.