Local May 13, 2015 | 12:45 pm

AccuWeather predicts below-normal Atlantic hurricane season

State College, Pennsylvania.- AccuWeather reports that despite a premature start to the Atlantic hurricane season, due to the development of Ana, forecasters predict that the number of storms this year will again fall below normal.

There have only been four below-normal seasons total in the past 20 years.

With eight named tropical storms, four hurricanes and one major hurricane predicted for the Atlantic Basin this season, AccuWeather.com’s long-range forecasting team anticipates two or three of these systems to make landfall in the United States.

Twenty landfalls

"Last year’s hurricane numbers were a little bit higher than what we’re forecasting right now, but the environmental conditions are somewhat similar to last year," Expert Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

"Last year’s upper-level winds actually looked like an El Niño-type pattern, so what we got last year will be pretty much the same as this year," he said.

An El Niño weather pattern usually causes frequent periods of high wind shear. Wind shear causes the vertical column of spinning air within a system to become tilted, inhibiting the development of storms.

However, the similarities between 2014 and 2015 do not suggest that storms will develop in the same spots as last year, Kottlowski stressed.

A combination of drier-than-normal air and colder water over an important region of the southern North Atlantic will affect where storms form.

In 2014, only one named storm, Hurricane Arthur, hit the U.S., disrupting Independence Day festivities along the Eastern Seaboard.

This year, the biggest area of concern is the Gulf of Mexico.

"The water temperatures are warmer [in the Gulf of Mexico than in the past few years, and this could support early-season development," he said.

"But, I don’t want to diminish the potential for anywhere along the coast to be hit by a hurricane or a tropical storm this year."

Above all else, Kottlowski urges those in coastal areas to prepare for this season.

Know if you live in an evacuation zone and, if you do, know your evacuation route in advance. Update or create a hurricane preparation kit which should include copies of all important documents and items you would take with you to a hurricane shelter. Also, check your insurance coverage and buy non-perishable supplies now, he said.

"Just because this season’s numbers are low, it doesn’t mean that people should let their guard down," he said. "It only takes one storm to cause a lot of destruction.”

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