Texas ports brace for predicted above-average 2024 hurricane season

Texas ports brace for predicted above-average 2024 hurricane season

This year’s hurricane season is poised to be more active than normal, with up to 25 named storms predicted by experts. And, the Texas coast is forecasted to be seriously at risk.

AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Forecaster Alex DaSilva told FreightWaves that the weather forecasting agency is predicting 20 to 25 named storms this hurricane season, which begins June 1. Of those, eight to 12 are forecasted to be hurricanes. Texas, which had a below-average risk of storms last year, is forecasted to be battered by severe weather this year, DaSilva said.

Despite the forecast, it’s business as usual at Texas ports as they prepare to embark on the 2024 hurricane season. That’s because, storm or not, port leaders say they stay in “a state of readiness for whatever happens.”

“We approach every season as a busy season,” said Port of Corpus Christi’s Director of Emergency Management Danielle Hale. “It’s all about perspective — one storm, and if it’s the one that hits you, it’s the one that messes up your entire summer.”

Texas last saw a hurricane in 2021 when Hurricane Nicholas made landfall as a slow-moving Category 1. Hurricane Harvey in 2017, which rapidly grew into a Category 4, smashed into the Texas coast, severely impacting the region and leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. Harvey closed ports along the Gulf Coast, including Houston, Galveston, Texas City, Freeport and Corpus Christi, some of which were shuttered for nearly a week.

Harvey made landfall three times in six days, killing 90 people and causing $200 billion in damage, according to a special report from the Texas Hospital Association.

What are Texas ports doing?

Texas ports develop hurricane preparedness plans ahead of the season, which guidelines for how to react ahead of, during and after severe weather. The U.S. Coast Guard plays a significant role in monitoring conditions, and the ports engage with stakeholders, emergency services and local leaders during a weather event.

“June 1 is just a place on the calendar for the work that we do,” Hale said.” The things that go into hurricane response and recovery are similar to all hazards. … our preparedness doesn’t change year round.”

Port of Houston’s Chief Port Operations Officer Ryan Mariacher said the plan for approaching a hurricane – which they begin executing at least 96 hours out when they can — is “less of a roadmap and more of a menu.”

Even with a plan in place, each storm is different, so Mariacher said it’s important to assess risk factors ahead of each weather event. Similarly, Hale said she develops an hour-by-hour preparation plan and considers the timing of a storm’s impacts across different operations.

The Houston port has a “rideout team” that stays onsite during storms so they can immediately assess damage during the aftermath.

Randal Ogrydziak, the emergency management director at the Port of Beaumont, has a simple philosophy: “Expect that it’s going to come here until it does otherwise.”

The Beaumont port begins planning for storm season in March, when Ogrydziak, who was previously in the Coast Guard, said department heads begin discussing their responsibilities. He said Harvey, which was one of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in decades, changed the way many emergency operations leaders approached storms.

Hale said Harvey was the first time the Corpus Christi port’s incident management team was activated. Since then, that team has spent years developing a robust system to monitor and address weather events, which has led them to become “quicker, faster, smarter,” she said.

Why are storms expected to be so severe this year?

Weather conditions this summer will transfer to a La Nina, which typically allows for more hurricanes and tropical storms due to reducing high-altitude winds that typically keep storms from forming, DaSilva said.

Sea surface temperatures are exceptionally warm across the Atlantic, potentially leading to another year of record-breaking temperatures. Last year was the warmest year on record for the ocean, and DaSilva said based on current trends, that record could be surpassed this summer.

Tropical storms need at least 80-degree water to form, DaSilva said. Hotter water is a breeding ground for storm activity, leading to more severe weather.

An average hurricane season has 14 storms, with 2020 having a record 30 tropical storms. This year has a 15% chance of seeing 30 or more, DaSilva said.

A typical year sees seven hurricanes, fewer than this year’s prediction. Forecasters predict four of this year’s hurricanes will be at least Category 3 storms.

The Gulf Coast side of Florida into the Carolinas are at risk this year, DaSilva said.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also predicting an above-average seasonthis year. The agency is predicting 17 to 25 named storms and eight to 13 hurricanes, four to seven of which are forecasted to be major.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top