Early Forecast Says Below-Average Hurricane Season

8 04 2016

The 2016 Hurricane Season will soon be here.  Everybody should begin preparing for the annual season which begins on June 1st.  Fort Bend County’s Office of Emergency Management completes approximately 40 preparedness tasks during the Spring to get adequately prepared for the Hurricane Season.  Updating the County’s Traffic Management Plan is a priority.  The Traffic Management Plan guides evacuations through Fort Bend County when our neighbors in Galveston County and Brazoria County need to evacuate.  Even though Fort Bend County citizens do not generally need to evacuate because of a hurricane, but it is critical that our jurisdictions and law enforcement agencies have a plan to keep our evacuation routes open and clear during a large-scale exodus from counties near the coast.

I have copied a recent article from Emergency Management magazine (March 22, 2016).  The article was written by Kimberly Miller from The Palm Beach Post in Florida.  The crux of the article is that a well-known hurricane prediction expert is indicating that hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean may be lessened in 2016 because of cold water.  This is an early prediction; more predictions will be coming out from experts in the coming weeks.  But, don’t let the hint of a “timid” forecast make you procrastinate about taking preparedness actions.  In 1992, there were only seven named storms, but one of them was Hurricane Andrew which, at the time, was the most destructive hurricane to hit the United States.  Even a much smaller hurricane will severely disrupt the lives of our community; so please use this Spring to prepare for the 2016 Hurricane Season.

hurricane

Article from Kimberly Miller:

A below-average hurricane season this year? Floridians will take that, even if it is just an early prediction.

Phil Klotzbach, a leading hurricane expert, made that prediction Monday, based partly on the fact that frigid waters flowing out of the North Atlantic Ocean may limit activity as warm seas that feed energy to storms cool.

“The far north Atlantic is one of the few really cold areas on the globe right now, and those cold anomalies are bleeding down toward the west coast of Africa,” said Klotzbach, a researcher with Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science. “From there, they alter pressure patterns, winds and churn up the sea surface making the Atlantic not as conducive for a super active season.”

Klotzbach, who made his prediction Monday at the week-long National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, won’t deliver his official storm forecast until April.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also weeks away from releasing its official 2016 hurricane forecast, but meteorologists have been buzzing about whether the end of El Nino will leave the U.S. more vulnerable to storms.

El Nino, a global weather phenomenon that begins with a periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean, is characterized by strong westerly winds that cut down Atlantic storms.

The 2015-2016 El Nino, one of the strongest on record, is expected to weaken by summer.

But like a pendulum, the mighty trade winds that take a backseat during El Nino, can roar back, awakening La Nina – a more accommodating hurricane host.

The most recent forecast by the Climate Prediction Center says there is a 50 percent chance La Nina will arrive by September. Hurricane season runs June through November.

“The higher the chances of La Nina, the higher the chances for a bigger than usual hurricane season,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground, in an interview earlier this month. “You have less wind shear and more favorable conditions for showers and thunderstorms to develop into hurricanes.”

But Klotzbach stressed Monday that the atmosphere doesn’t always react immediately to change, meaning an El Nino hangover may linger to help thwart storms. Also, other factors, such as an area of low pressure he says has been a predominant factor over the East Coast have acted against storms. Low pressure turns in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing hurricanes away from the U.S. coast and to the north.

“I think the best example of this was 2010 when there were 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic and not one hit the U.S.,” Klotzbach said. “We were extraordinarily lucky that year.”

In fact, while Klotzbach looks at decades worth of data to see what patterns produce weak or active hurricane seasons, he said sometimes a hurricane miss is just providence.

The U.S. has not been hit by a major hurricane – Category 3 or higher – in 10 years. Florida’s last hurricane was 2005’s Wilma.

“There has been a significant luck component,” he said. “There have been 27 major hurricanes in a row with none hitting the U.S. The odds of that are one in several thousand.”

Klotzbach is lead author on the annual hurricane forecasts by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. He took over the task in 2006 from noted hurricane researcher William Gray.

Last year, the duo’s April hurricane forecast said there would be seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. The season ended in November with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“2016 will be a good test since we won’t have El Nino,” said Klotzbach, who believes the Atlantic may have entered a climatic pattern of fewer hurricanes. “It would definitely increase confidence that we are moving out of an active time for storms.”

Klotzbach is among dozens of weather and emergency management experts speaking at this year’s National Hurricane Conference. About 1,500 people are registered for the week-long event.





Unified Vision, Proactive Thinking Driving Fort Bend Prosperity

1 04 2016

The article below was published in The Katy Rancher on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.  The article was written by Landan Kuhlmann.

 

Fort Bend County SealFort Bend County has become a symbol of economic and demographic growth, not only in Texas but nationally, as the fourth-fastest growing county in the nation, with several factors contributing the boom.

Fort Bend Economic Development Council President and CEO Jeff Wiley believes that quality growth is the most important driver of economic prosperity available to a community. He credits the cooperation between Fort Bend and the entities within it as well as a unified vision for economic growth for enabling the county to not only achieve, but maintain, such growth.

“These common core beliefs, the continued public and private sector leadership and the results themselves instill trust by the community and cooperation by leaders to achieve more together than by themselves,” he said.

The old phrase “numbers don’t lie” certainly holds true in this aspect, as Fort Bend County has become a regional leader in virtually every aspect of demographic and economic excellence tracked at the highest level for several decades.

The Houston-Woodlands-Sugar Land region of the county is 11th fastest-growing metro area in the US, while Fort Bend County itself grew by more than 3.8 percent in 2013-2014 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown topped Forbes’ list of America’s fastest-growing cities.

Wiley did note that growth of any type brings its own set of potential obstacles. For example, he mentioned that residential and population growth means increased responsibilities–every type of service provided must expand in accordance with housing and population growth.

“In many cases, the cost of servicing this growth exceeds the service revenues and property taxes generated by the growth,” he said.

On the other hand, Wiley said growth of businesses in a community generates property taxes which exceed service costs, thereby helping support the costs of providing the aforementioned services and providing other benefits.

“Commercial growth also provides primary jobs to a community, allowing residents to find employment opportunities,” he said. “Keeping and growing jobs is the second vital component of a successful economic development formula,” he said.

Several Fort Bend cities appear on lists here too, with Sugar Land rated as the top place to find a job in 2014 according to Money Magazine and Katy garnering the distinction as the fourth-best city in Texas to start a business.

Setting the conditions which attract such business growth is equally important according to Wiley.

“Low taxes, low burdens of entry, quality schools, educated and skilled workforce, and in some cases, business incentives are all parts of the toolbox in efforts to draw businesses to a community,” he said. “This is not a secret, but delivery of these building blocks to success are often difficult to accomplish.”

Wiley also praised the county’s economic development leadership, whether it be housed in elected or appointed positions, city staff or public and private partnerships.

“We understand the critical nature of setting the conditions for growth and work to improve them every day,” he said.

Numerous highway projects such has the US 90, Highway 59 and Grand Parkway expansions have enabled the county to keep pace with its aforementioned booming growth. Wiley says transportation and mobility are important not only to connect Fort Bend to Houston, but to connect the communities within the county lines as well.

Another reason Fort Bend has maintained its quality economic growth according to Wiley is county officials’ forethought in attempts to head off or prepare for any potential crisis before it even arises.

“Whether transportation, education, water, or sewer drainage, Fort Bend works to develop infrastructure in advance of critical stages,” Wiley said. “To do anything different would compromise quality of life for the community.”

A full list of Fort Bend County’s economic and demographic recognitions can be found at fortbendcounty.com by clicking under the “News” tab and clicking “Accolades.”