Longer hurricane season?

With one eye on the rearview mirror and another on what’s just around the corner, the nation’s top meteorologists are considering moving the official start date for the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to May 15.

A surge in spring storms over the past several years has the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration mulling such a change.

NOAA and the World Meteorological Organization, which has the final say on any date change, will meet this spring. In any case, no changes will be made before the 2022 season.

True to its namesake – May is named after the Greek goddess of fertility, Maia – the fifth month of the year has produced tropical storms or hurricanes in each of the past six years. Nineteen storms have formed in the Atlantic since the late 1960s, when satellites began tracking storms.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph.

The Atlantic basin produced a record-breaking 30 tropical storms or hurricanes in 2020, compared with a typical season, which averages 12 storms. Of the 30 storms that formed last year, 12 made landfall on U.S. shores, also a record.

It was the fifth consecutive season with above-normal activity, and there have been 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26, according to NOAA.

While the eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, the Atlantic season, which tends to form storms later in the year, has started June 1 for than 50 years.

Although the start date of the Atlantic hurricane season has traditionally begun on June 1, the end date has been pushed back a few times – from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 and then to Nov. 30.

TCEQ starts planning for hurricane season early each calendar year, so a change in the official start date will probably not affect us too much. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we typically stage an exercise in the May or early June timeframe. For more, visit TCEQ’s Hurricane Prepardeness page and check out the response to last year’s Hurricane Laura.

For information about hurricanes visit NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, the Department of Homeland Security’s hurricane preparedness page, and the Texas Hurricane Center.

Stay tuned for more on the upcoming hurricane season – details on how TCEQ prepares for storms, lessons learned, how we assist first responders, and more.