Experts predict busy hurricane season

14895907 – palms at hurricane

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Posted May 27, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee,

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start after Tropical Storm Ana formed more than a week ahead of the season’s official June 1 start.

While Ana didn’t threaten Florida or the U.S., it was the first named storm of what experts are predicting to be another above-normal season.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their official Atlantic hurricane season predictions on May 20 and are calling for a 60% chance of above-normal activity. Another 30% of forecasters predict a near-normal season, and just 10% believe 2021 will see below-normal levels of activity.

However, experts don’t believe 2021 will match 2020 which saw a record-setting number of named storms.

Last season was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record with a record-breaking 30 named storms, of which 11 became hurricanes.

Marion County was largely spared last season.

Hurricane Eta, the season’s 28th named storm, had minor impacts on the Marion County area as it dissipated through the Sunshine State in November.

According to the NOAA’s 2021 outlook, during the 2021 season — which runs June 1 through November 30 — the Atlantic is widely expected to see 13 to 20 storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes boasting winds greater than 74 mph.

The NOAA also believes, with 70% confidence, that three to five major hurricanes are possible in 2021.

A season with average activity produces 14 storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes, the NOAA says.

Experts attribute the jump in activity to warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures and a weaker wind shear in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Despite the expectations of increased storm activity in the Atlantic, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s director of emergency services, Preston Bowlin, said it’s business as usual for the organization.

“As for preparations for hurricanes, it’s the same as we do every year,” Bowlin said.

According to Bowlin, those involved with the emergency services department, including the health department and school board, have already started their exercises and trainings.

A majority of the county’s emergency shelters are housed within the county’s public schools when storms threaten the area.

And in the case that a storm forces shelters to open their doors, Bowlin says that his team still has the implications of COVID-19 in the back of their minds.

“We’ll take every precaution necessary with masks, sanitation and isolation rooms, if needed,” Bowlin said. “This is going to be the time of year, looking at our vaccine percentages, and we’ll take guidance from the health department. But we’re on track.”

While the County continues to take the steps to ensure that it’s ready to respond to a storm, Bowlin encourages citizens to do their part.

“Don’t rely on county or the state to provide essentials for you,” Bowlin said.

It’s suggested that citizens gather seven days’ worth of food, water and medication if a storm begins to close in on the area.

Being proactive in mitigation efforts is also encouraged, Bowlin adds.

Bowlin suggests making sure trees are cut back and that windows and roofs are intact, as well as understanding the rating of your home.

“The big thing is making sure they know what their homes are rated for,” Bowlin said. “If they know their home is only rated up to a Category 2, well then if we know were getting a (Category) 3 or (Category) 4 hurricane, they need to be looking at sheltering elsewhere.”

Marion County announces the opening of its emergency shelters prior a storm threatening the area.

As the emergency services team begins tracking a storm, alerts will be sent out in plenty of time for citizens to take action, Bowlin says.

“Last year they didn’t expect to get into the Greek alphabet, but we did,” Bowlin said. “You just can’t predict what Mother Nature is going to do. You prepare for it.”

For more information on county resources and other preparedness tips, visit or call the Marion County Sheriff’s Office’s emergency services office at 352-369-8100.

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