An updated 2011 Atlantic basin hurricane forecast from Colorado State University yesterday should serve as a reminder to all East Coast and Gulf Coast boaters to check their insurance policies for hurricane coverage. More importantly, now is the time to create your own “hurricane plan” — whether it is to move the boat, haul it, secure it; whatever. You need a plan and you need to ensure that you and your insurer agree on both how your boat will be covered and to what extent the insurance company might help cover the cost of a precautionary haulout. A haulout, while inconvenient and expensive, is ultimately the best protection for your boat. Yes, you can suffer some damage to surfaces and fittings, but a properly secured boat on dry land is never going to sink.
Every year, boaters seem to be surprised by the arrival of hurricanes and tropical storms in their area and hundreds of boats are damaged and destroyed, many needlessly. Granted, Mother Nature is, ultimately, unpredictable, but preparation and vigilance can go a long way toward minimizing the consequences.
Now back to the forecast. Originally started by Dr. William Gray and now released by him and Dr. Phil Kotzbach, these tropical cyclone forecasts are meant to give the public a sense for the probabilities of these storms, but of course can’t predict them with certainty. Even lacking certainty, they are informative and useful. The group issued its first forecast for 2011 last December and this week’s update slightly reduces the expected amount of activity, but only slightly. All categories — tropical storms, hurricanes, etc., are still forecast to be significantly above statistical averages for the last half of the 20th century. The slight adjustment for this forecast is predicated on a subsiding La Niña in the Pacific and slightly cooling sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic.
Here are some useful links to see these forecasts and to track the weather yourself. If you know of others, let us know in the comments and we’ll add them to the list.
U.S. Navy Fleet Weather Center (good for all oceans)
Tropical Weather and Hurricane Info from The Weather Underground (great maps and visuals)
Tropical Weather Page at Weather.com (some interesting historical analysis of specific storms)
Stormpulse Weather Website (good tracking maps and satellite imagery, including cloud cover)
Intellicast Tropical Winds Webpage (great view of upper-level steering currents)
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