Heads Up Houston: Hurricane Season 2018 Begins This Week

This was the scene last year after Hurricane Harvey blew through town.
This was the scene last year after Hurricane Harvey blew through town. Google Earth screenshot of Memorial Drive near Beltway 8 in early September, 2017.
It's difficult not to be a little disturbed by the start of hurricane season in Houston, particularly after the year we had in 2017. And yet, every June 1, we deal with it again. The start of this season has been punctuated by Subtropical Storm Alberto, which dumped a bunch of rain in the southeast over the Memorial Day weekend. Storms like Alberto are not uncommon this time of year and it was a good reminder of how these things can sneak up on us if we aren't paying attention.

In 2018, there is no reason to believe it will be any quieter (or busier for that matter) in the Atlantic Basin between June 1 and November 30 (the full hurricane season). Predictions early in the season have a tendency to be questionable at best. And even if they got the numbers right, no one can pinpoint exactly where hurricanes will make landfall. As the saying goes, it only takes one.

So, where does that leave Houston? Like every year, we need to be prepared whether we ultimately need it or not. That means having plenty of water, a good evacuation plan (if necessary), prescriptions refilled, gas in the tank and an eye on what is stirring in the Atlantic.

As for those predictions, most experts believe 2018 will be a fairly active year, but not as active as 2017 in which we had 10 hurricanes, five of which were major category three or above. They expect those numbers to be down slightly, but not dramatically.

What fuels these predictions exactly? Experts look at conditions throughout the spring and compare them to previous years' data. They also make forecasts on storm inhibitors and intensifiers like El Niño, La Niña and sea surface temperatures. There is a chance the Atlantic could see weak to moderate El Niño conditions later in the summer, which would help to dampen hurricane activity, but we are still too far off to make any concrete predictions and the chances at this point are still rather low. In fact, there is a greater chance of those conditions after hurricane season than during.

Keep in mind that Houston frequently gets tropical weather throughout the summer. It's just that most of it doesn't come with a name or designation. Even a depression can dump a lot of rain on us and tropical waves are often good ways to stave off droughts in the hot Texas summer.

Still, no one wants a repeat of 2017 and the good news that is extremely unlikely. Hurricane Harvey not only broke Houston records for damage and rainfall, it shattered national records as well. That doesn't mean we won't see some tropical weather this summer or that we won't have to face another potential hurricane. Unfortunately, there are no clear answers.

For now, chances are pretty good you can relax. The busiest portion of the season runs between late July and mid September. The Texas coast is typically in the clear by the third week of September. So, we only have three-and-a-half months to go. And you'll probably be more annoyed by the stifling heat than hurricanes anyway.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke