Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Don't shoot the messenger, but unfolding against the backdrop of the coronavirus outbreak is the start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1.

A typical Atlantic hurricane season sees 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. scientific agency responsible for weather forecasts.

Just like Covid-19 does not recognize borders, storms do not always follow the calendar. The National Hurricane Center issued its first advisory on May 12 for what developed into Tropical Storm Arthur two days later. Fortunately, the storm bypassed the Caribbean, headed north and skirted the coast of North Carolina before heading out to sea.

"This is a couple of weeks early, which happens from time to time," according to a meteorologist at the NHC.
The peak of hurricane season is usually in September.

Several Caribbean countries already have begun a phased reopening of businesses following months-long shutdowns while other destinations are still grappling with containing Covid-19. Resources in the region are stretched thin, so the combination of dealing with the coming storm season, if it's a bad one, on top of managing the virus could prove a logistical impediment to jumpstarting tourism recovery.

Plans are underway by the Caribbean Tourism Organization to help member countries prepare for the hurricane season.

A virtual meeting scheduled for May 20 will include representatives from the countries affected by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and by Dorian in the Bahamas in 2019. Discussion topics will include lessons learned from those storms. A second meeting on May 27 will explore the Caribbean's readiness for the upcoming season, including stockpiling supplies -- that this year should include hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes.

The 2019 season delivered 18 named storms and six hurricanes, including Dorian, the Category 5 storm with wind speeds of more than 157 mph that walloped the Abacos and Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas over Labor Day weekend.

A number of forecasts call for an "above average" season this year, which is not good news.

In an April forecast, forecasters at Colorado State University predicted 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes of Category 3 strength (defined as winds over 110 mph).

A team at Penn State also has predicted an active season, saying that warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic combined with cool temperatures in the Pacific make for conditions that are conducive for strong storms to develop.

Correction: This story was updated to include the name of the tropical storm earlier this month.

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