MACON, Ga. — Ahead of the start of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season on June 1, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham is urging Central Georgians to prepare for any storm that may come our way.
Despite our area not being directly on the coast, we regularly find ourselves in the crosshairs of tropical systems here in the central part of the Peach State.
"You look at Michael, you look at Irma, you look at Alberto," said Graham. "You go back in history and absolutely, Central Georgia can have significant issues from tropical systems."
On the heels of two very active seasons, global models are pointing at another La Niña pattern, meaning Atlantic sea-surface temperatures are likely to trend warmer, providing more fuel for tropical disturbances.
In 2021, we had six tropical systems impact Georgia: Claudette, Danny, Elsa, Fred, Ida, and Mindy. However, when storms roll through Central Georgia, we don't worry about storm surge or the major hurricane-force winds that occur when storms come ashore.
"The bottom line is that you don't have to be coastal to see the big impacts from tropical systems," said Graham.
Rather, our greatest impacts are from low-grade hurricane and tropical storm force winds, flash flooding, and spin-up tornadoes. All three can still cause significant issues.
"Inland rains are overtaking the fact that storm surge is the leading cause of fatalities," said Graham. "So, Central Georgia, that means you, that means in a situation where you get that heavy rainfall and floods."
We saw just that in 1994 when Tropical Storm Alberto dumped more than two feet of rain in some parts of Georgia; inland flooding took 31 lives.
More recently, we saw Hurricanes Irma and Michael. Both made landfall in the United States as major hurricanes after undergoing rapid intensification.
Both Irma and Michael caused spin-up tornadoes and wind damage, knocking down trees and turning off the lights in many homes, all while devastating Georgia's agriculture industry.
"Just because you're inland doesn't mean you don't have to start getting ready for hurricane season," said Graham. "You've got to! You've got to be prepared every single year as if you're going to be hit."
Other hot topics
In the last seven years, the Atlantic tropical basin has seen tropical storms and sub-tropical storms develop before the official start of hurricane season on June 1. There has been discussion about the potential for hurricane season dates changing, and here is what the National Hurricane Center had to say about that.
Intensity forecasts have struggled in years past, but with the introduction of new technology and better model algorithms, the forecasting ability has been greatly improved. Graham talks about what went into those improvements and where we expect things to go in the future.
There have been proposals to change the scale on which tropical systems are measured. Most notable is the switch from a wind-based Saffir-Simpson scale to a scale that is pressure-based. Graham digs into the topic and what he thinks the future of tropical messaging looks like.