Yesterday marked the official start of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season, which is expected to end on November 30.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released its forecast for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season which coincides with predictions issued by Colorado State University’s leading forecaster, Professor William Gray in April.  Both forecasts call for an average/near normal Atlantic hurricane season which is based on the potential for a weak El Nino event and an observed cooling of tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures.  

In their forecast, NOAA states that competing climate factors have been the reason for their seasonal outlook.  NOAA’s outlook does not project where and when any of these storms will hit, as landfall is dictated by weather patters in place at the time the storm approaches. It is important that the public be aware that weather patterns are imposing a greater uncertainty in forecasting today than in recent years.   

Tropical systems acquire a name upon reaching tropical storm strength with sustained winds of at least 39mph.  If formed this season, the first storm will be called “Ana”.  Tropical storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74mph and become major hurricanes when winds increase to 111mph.  

NOAA indicates that this hurricane season will produce a range of 9 to14 named storms, of which 4 to 7 could become hurricanes, including 1 to 3 major hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5. An average season has 11 named storms including 6 hurricanes with 2 becoming major hurricanes.  

In 2008, there were 16 named storms including eight hurricanes, five of them were major.

Even though an average hurricane season is predicted for 2009, Virgin Islanders are encouraged to be prepared for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.  The DDM’s Hurricane Preparedness Campaign will run throughout the entire hurricane season.  General preparedness tips can be found on the DDM’s website at or interested persons are welcome to call the Department at 468 4200 or visit our office at #3 Wailing Road, McNamara for more information.

An official statement on preparedness for this hurricane season will be issued by the Governor in the coming days.