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Another busy hurricane season predicted for 2021. What could it mean for Carolinas?

Mitchell Willetts
·2 min read

Weather experts are forecasting another “above normal” hurricane season for 2021, with at least 17 named storms expected and four major hurricanes.

But how do things look for North Carolina and South Carolina?

“We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” according to researchers at Colorado State University.

The odds of a major hurricane — defined as category 3, 4, or 5 — hitting somewhere along the U.S. coastline are nearly 70%, experts said in a report released Thursday.

There’s a 44% chance of striking the Gulf coast, and a slightly higher chance for the Atlantic coast, at 45%.

“The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low,” researchers said in the report. “In any one season, most U.S. coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active the individual season is.”

The outlook is worse in the Caribbean, where there’s a 58% chance of a hurricane at category 3 or higher.

The Atlantic coast was comparatively lucky during 2020’s record-setting season, as the Gulf took the brunt of the beating.

While 12 named storms made landfall in the U.S., nine hit the Gulf, and five pounded Louisiana. Two storms struck the east coast; Bertha landed on South Carolina, and a still-strengthening Eta glanced the southern tip of Florida.

Isaias, the only true hurricane to hit the east coast last year, made landfall in North Carolina. Meanwhile, five hurricanes smashed into Texas, Louisiana and Alabama.

While a busy season is likely in store, forecasts show it’s shaping up to be more tame than last year, which produced a record 30 named storms.

Of the 17 named storms expected this year, eight are predicted to become hurricanes, according to CSU researchers.

The normal level of storm activity in a year is about 12 named storms, 6.4 hurricanes, and 2.7 major hurricanes. “Normal” figures are established using averages from 1981 through 2010.

So what’s to blame for what’s expected to be an active hurricane season?

In part, experts anticipate a weak El Nino weather pattern. El Nino is generally associated with creating warmer waters in the Pacific, which helps hinder hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

“El Nino generally increases vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes,” Philip Klotzbach, one of the CSU researchers, said in a tweet.