SEBRING - An annual hurricane seminar that advises Highlands County residents on preparing for the storm season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30, and what people can expect this year, is set from 6 p.m. June 3 at the Bert J. Harris Jr. Agricultural Center.
Highlands County's Emergency Director Scott Canaday said he will be sharing his outlook for this year's hurricane season at the seminar.
At least two forecasting teams are predicting a busy Atlantic season.
Private company AccuWeather expects 16 named tropical storms will form, of which eight will be hurricanes. Three of the storms are predicted to make landfall in the United States.
The normal number of named tropical storms in a given year is 12, of which six are hurricanes, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. A tropical storm has sustained winds of 39 mph; it becomes a hurricane when its winds reach 74 mph.
Warm water across the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean, paired with less frequent wind shear, may result in an above-normal number of storms, AccuWeather adds. Areas along the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico are at risk for an impact.
While AccuWeather.com's Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski described last year's early storms more as an "anomaly," he said the biggest concern for the upcoming season includes development in the Gulf of Mexico, an impact in Florida and another East Coast impact.
"Florida is long overdue for a direct hurricane hit," Kottlowski said. Though Florida has been affected by named tropical storms in the last couple of years, a direct hit by a hurricane has not occurred since Hurricane Wilma in 2005, he added.
Last month, forecasters from Colorado State University also predicted an above-average 2013 hurricane season, with 18 tropical storms expected, of which nine will be hurricanes.
The tropical Atlantic has warmed unusually over the past several months, the report states, and it appears the chances of an El Niņo this summer and fall are unlikely.
El Niņo is a phenomenon where ocean surface temperatures become warmer than normal in the equatorial Pacific. In general, warm El Niņo events are characterized by more tropical storms and hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.
"We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean," the report states.
While a hurricane season has many variables, coastal residents are reminded 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 or how little activity is predicted."
Highlands County Health Department spokesman Tom Moran, who also coordinates the emergency preparedness for the health department, agrees.
"My responsibility for my family is to prepare for at least one hurricane," he said.
At the June 3 seminar, Moran will discuss the special needs shelter, which is activated when needed for residents who are too sick to stay at home by themselves but not sick enough to go to the hospital. The last time the special needs shelter was activated was in 2008 during Tropical Storm Fay, he added.
Meanwhile, some Highlands County residents don't take hurricane season lightly.
After going through Hurricane Andrew, Mychelle Tomek takes every season seriously
Andrew Higgins, for his part, feels the weather "so far this year has been weird to say the least; a smart person will prepare for the upcoming hurricane season."
The Weather Channel's forecast, which also came out in April, calls for a total of 16 named storms, of which nine are expected to become hurricanes.
The federal government will issue its seasonal hurricane forecast Thursday, May 23, a USA Today report states.