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An extreme hurricane season is predicted for the Atlantic starting June 1

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

We're going to talk about hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on June 1, and this year forecasters are predicting a very large number of storms. NPR's Rebecca Hersher has more.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: The National Hurricane Center is predicting between 17 and 25 storms will form in the Atlantic this year. At least eight of those are expected to be full-blown hurricanes as opposed to weaker tropical storms.

RICK SPINRAD: This season is looking to be an extraordinary one in a number of ways.

HERSHER: Rick Spinrad leads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

SPINRAD: The forecast is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook.

HERSHER: One big reason for the hyperactive forecasts - favorable wind conditions, meaning that vertical winds in the Atlantic are less likely to tear apart storms as they form, which happened a lot last summer. Also, water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are abnormally high.

GAVIN SCHMIDT: They've been in record-breaking territory for almost the entire last 12 months.

HERSHER: Gavin Schmidt is a climate scientist at NASA. He says human-caused climate change is the main reason for the off-the-charts heat in the Atlantic. And all that extra heat is like fuel for hurricanes, helping them get big and powerful and giving them more moisture, which then falls as heavy rain. That large number of hurricanes spells danger for tens of millions of Americans in the eastern half of the U.S. Emergency officials stressed that even relatively weak storms can cause huge amounts of damage and many deaths from flooding. And hurricanes routinely affect people hundreds of miles from the coasts, Spinrad warns.

SPINRAD: Remember; it only takes one storm to devastate a community, and it's prudent to prepare now because once the storm is headed your way, it all happens so rapidly you won't have the time to plan and prepare at that point.

HERSHER: That means making a plan now for how you would evacuate or hunker down, depending on the storm. Erik Hooks is the deputy administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He says the key to a good hurricane plan is to think about your specific situation.

ERIK HOOKS: Do you have medication that requires refrigeration? Do you have a medical device that requires electricity? Do you have mobility challenges that make evacuations harder?

HERSHER: Get prepared now, he says. Atlantic hurricane season runs through the end of November. Rebecca Hersher, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher
Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Climate Desk, where she reports on climate science, weather disasters, infrastructure and how humans are adapting to a hotter world.