Representatives of the oil and natural gas industry were among those gathered at the White House last Thursday to discuss the impacts of Hurricane Sandy on energy interests last year and to brief President Obama on the outlook for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially began Saturday (June 1) and continues to Nov. 30.

"The President made clear that he expects his team to continue to make sure that his administration is taking all necessary steps to prepare ahead of hurricanes and severe weather during this season, as well as continue to support states as they also take necessary precautions," said a White House readout following the meeting. "He also said that federal, state, local and private sector coordination remains a priority, and directed his team to continue to apply lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy to improve response wherever necessary."

The meeting, held in the White House situation room, was led by Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, in addition to officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Environmental Protection Agency and departments of Energy, Interior, Homeland Security and Transportation. The briefing was attended by American Petroleum Institute CEO Jack Gerard.

Obama received a briefing on the 2013 hurricane season outlook by Kathy Sullivan, acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb, and the president heard from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate on efforts to prepare for the season, as well as a discussion of lessons learned following the 2012 season and the response to Hurricane Sandy.

NOAA forecasters recently said that they expect 13-20 named storms to form during "an active or extremely active" Atlantic hurricane season this year, including seven to eleven hurricanes, three to six of them major (Category 3 or higher) (see NGI, May 27). Those forecast numbers would make the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season more active than the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, NOAA said.

NOAA's hurricane prediction dovetailed neatly with a forecast issued by AccuWeather.com earlier this month (see NGI, May 20). AccuWeather.com forecasters said they expect 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, four of them major, to form in the Atlantic Basin, with as many as three hurricanes making landfall in the United States. Where those hurricanes might make landfall remains unclear, they said.

The Weather Services International forecast team recently expects 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them major, to form this year (see NGI, April 15). And forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) have said they expect the upcoming hurricane season will have more activity than the median 1981-2010 season, with an estimated 18 named storms, including nine hurricanes, four of them major.

The CSU forecasters estimate a 61% probability for at least one major hurricane to track into the Caribbean this year, compared with a 42% average over the last century. The probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall between the Florida Panhandle and South Texas near Brownsville is an estimated 47%, compared with 30% over the last century, and there is a 48% probability of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. East Coast.

On Friday, the WeatherBug meteorology team at Earth Networks added its name to the list of forecasters predicting an above-average hurricane season this year. WeatherBug said it expects 14-18 named tropical storms, including seven-10 hurricanes, three to five of them major hurricanes. Despite the above-normal forecast, the potential for hurricane landfall in the U.S. is expected to remain normal for the 2013 season, they said.

The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season produced 19 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, one of them major, continuing a decades-long high-activity era in the Atlantic Basin (see NGI, Dec. 3, 2012). It was the second consecutive year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast suffered devastating impacts from a named storm (see NGI, Nov. 5, 2012), but it was the seventh consecutive year that no major hurricanes hit the United States. Despite the devastation to New Jersey and New York, Hurricane Sandy was only a Category 2 when it hit land. And Hurricane Isaac was the only storm in 2012 to cause significant disruption to energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico (see NGI, Nov. 12, 2012).

In addition to preparing for hurricane season and helping in recovery efforts after hurricane's strike, the federal government "will keep working to improve hurricane forecasting with the latest science and technology," Obama said in a recent proclamation declaring May 26-June 1 National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

NOAA compiled its latest hurricane outlook using improved forecast models and data gathering, and it plans to bring online a new supercomputer in July that will provide significantly enhanced depictions of storm structure and improved storm intensity forecast guidance.

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