Another active 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is expected, according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Climate Administration (NOAA) Prediction Center, which is a division of the National Weather Service.

The forecasters predict a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. Despite the expectations of an active season, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

“Expectations are hard to predict in any season,” Bertie Emergency Management Director Mitch Cooper said. “While weather services are saying a less active season than last year, we should never take our guard down.

“It only takes one storm to cause devastating effects,” he continued. “We will continue to stand ready for our citizens and prepare for the worst at all times. Failure is not an option.”

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 until November 30.

The Climate Prediction Center with NOAA is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including three to five major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

NOAA is providing these ranges with a 70 percent confidence. An average hurricane season produces 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which are expected to be major ones.

There has been an increase in the average of storms which may be attributed to the overall improvement in observing platforms, including the NOAA’s fleet of next-generation environmental satellites and continued hurricane reconnaissance. The update reflects a busy period over the last 30 years.

The combination of the different climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for another active season in the Atlantic this year. The El Nino Southern Oscillation is currently in the neutral phase, however there is a possibility of return of La Nina later in the hurricane season.

The predicted warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic winds, and enhanced west African monsoon will likely be a factor in this year’s overall activity.

“Although scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “The forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are well-prepared with significant upgrades to our computer models, emerging observation techniques as the expertise to deliver the life-saving forecast that we all depend on during this, and every, hurricane season.”

Last year’s record breaking hurricane season should serve as a reminder for all the residents in the coastal regions or in areas prone to inland flooding from rainfall to be prepared for the 2021 hurricane season.

“The best step to prepare for hurricanes is information,” Cooper stressed. “With good, accurate information from the National Weather Service and North Carolina Emergency Management, citizens are able to know when and what damages may occur from a hurricane.”

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency agreed.

“With hurricane season starting June 1, now is the time to get ready and advance disaster resilience in our communities,” said FEMA Administrator Deanna Criswell. “Visit Ready.gov and Listo.gov to learn and take steps to prepare yourself and others in your household. Download the FEMA app to sign up for a variety of alerts and to access preparedness information. Purchase flood insurance to protect your greatest asset, your home. And, please encourage your neighbors, friends, and coworkers to also get ready for the upcoming season.”

For his part, Cooper said the citizens of Bertie County have always been prepared and he believes they will continue to work hard and be ready.

“Our citizens in Bertie County are typically prepared for any disaster,” he said. “The statement ‘Bertie Strong’ is true around here. With Bertie County being no stranger to hurricanes, it has become second nature to many.”

As for suggestions, Cooper said it was important to ask the right questions.

“When preparing for any natural disaster, citizens should answer the questions: What do I need to do to protect myself and my family and what do I need to do to minimize damage to my property?” he said. “They should also answer the question: What do I need to survive for 72 hours should I lose power or be unable to travel to get supplies for that amount of time,” he added. “This amount of time typically allows for us to coordinate with response agencies to get roads clear and get supplies flowing into the county should they be needed.

“But, one thing every citizen should be proud of is that all law enforcement, fire departments and emergency services will be mobile and available before that 72-hour mark,” he continued. “We contribute that to years of experience and expert planning from our staff and volunteers.”

Visit the National Hurricane Center’s website at www.hurricanes.gov throughout the season in order to stay current on watches and warnings.

Brandice Hoggard can be reached at bhoggard@ncweeklies.com.

Thadd White is Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and can be reached via email at twhite@ncweeklies.com.