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‘Extremely active’ hurricane season predicted

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2019's Hurricane Dorian satellite image (Photo courtesy NOAA)

The Atlantic hurricane season could be “extremely active,” according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service. Atmospheric and oceanic conditions are primed to fuel storm development in the Atlantic.

The agency released its annual August update Thursday to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, initially issued in May.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been off to a rapid pace with a record-setting nine named storms so far and has the potential to be one of the busiest on record. Historically, only two named storms form on average by early August, and the ninth named storm typically does not form until Oct. 4. An average season produces 12 named storms, including six hurricanes of which three become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5).

“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks. NOAA will continue to provide the best possible science and service to communities across the Nation for the remainder of hurricane season to ensure public readiness and safety,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement.

“We encourage all Americans to do their part by getting prepared, remaining vigilant and being ready to take action when necessary.”

The updated outlook calls for 19 to 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which seven to 11 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including three to six major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). This update covers the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, and includes the nine named storms to date.

The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. (Image courtesy NOAA)

A comprehensive measure of the overall hurricane season activity is the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, which measures the combined intensity and duration of all named storms during the season. Based on the ACE projection, combined with the above-average numbers of named storms and hurricanes, the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season has increased to 85%, with only a 10% chance of a near-normal season and a 5% chance of a below-normal season.

“This year, we expect more, stronger and longer-lived storms than average, and our predicted ACE range extends well above NOAA’s threshold for an extremely active season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Current oceanic and atmospheric conditions that make an “extremely active” hurricane season possible are warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon. These conditions are expected to continue for the next several months. A main climate factor behind these conditions is the ongoing warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, which reappeared in 1995 and has been favoring more active hurricane seasons since that time.

Another contributing climate factor this year is the possibility of La Nina developing in the months ahead. Indicative of cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean, La Nina can further weaken the wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storms to develop and intensify.

The 2020 Atlantic tropical cyclone names selected by the World Meteorological Organization. (Image courtesy NOAA)

NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center provides tropical weather outlooks up to five days in advance, provides track and intensity forecasts for individual storms, and issues watches and warnings for specific tropical storms, hurricanes and the associated storm surge.

“NOAA has the most highly trained and dedicated forecasters that serve to protect American lives and property. With improved forecast skill, new storm surge products, and new observations, such as GPS Radio Occultation, we are better positioned than ever before to keep Americans out of harm’s way,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “It is now more important than ever to stay informed with our forecasts, have a preparedness plan, and heed guidance from local emergency management officials.”

This hurricane season the Federal Emergency Management Agency encourages residents in hurricane-prone regions to keep COVID-19 in mind when making preparations and during evacuations. Visit https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes for more information. Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center for the latest about tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

Also, visit the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency website for information on preparing for hurricanes.

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Zeta expected to reach hurricane strength before making landfall

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Source: NOAA / NHC

The unnamed system located south of Cuba last week is now Tropical Storm Zeta. It will very likely be Hurricane Zeta before making landfall on the Gulf Coast later this week.

The storm will bring hurricane-force wind and rain to Mexico’s northern Yucatan peninsula Monday night and into Tuesday. Zeta is then expected to accelerate toward the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi, by Wednesday.

Zeta is forecast to be at or near hurricane strength when it approaches the northern Gulf Coast Wednesday, and there is an increasing risk of storm surge, rainfall and wind impacts from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle. Residents in these areas should monitor the progress of Zeta and updates to the forecast.

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Business

Kevin Roberts opens his second Fit Chef store in Madison

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Kevin Roberts and his new Fit Chef store in Madison. (photos courtesy Kevin Roberts)

Vicksburg resident Kevin Roberts is opening a new Fit Chef location in Madison, Mississippi, next week.

The new Fit Chef is Roberts’ second location. The store promotes a healthy eating lifestyle and offers healthy prepared meals and catering. The grand opening of the new Fit Chef is Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 111 Dees Drive in Madison.

The first Fit Chef is located at 3401 Halls Ferry Road in Roberts hometown of Vicksburg and is popular among local residents.

Roberts has plenty to keep him busy. He is also the owner of The Chopping Block, an axe throwing arcade located at 1504 Washington St. in downtown Vicksburg, which he opened earlier this year.

Roberts is hoping that his second Fit Chef location will have as much success as the first one as he continues to expand the Fit Chef brand.

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COVID-19

Mississippi reports 1,212 new COVID-19 cases Saturday as U.S. sets new one-day high

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Mississippi’s cumulative number of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 115,000 Saturday, with another day of more than 1,000 cases reported.

On Friday, the U.S. reported 83,757 new cases, a new one-day high, according to Johns Hopkins University. At the peak of the summer surge, the U.S. reported 77,362 new cases of COVID-19 on July 16, reports USA Today. Nearly every state in the union is reporting increased cases, and experts predict that this surge could be more deadly and last longer than the summer surge because the virus circulates easier in colder weather.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported five new COVID-19 cases Saturday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,548, and the county’s death toll is 55.

Statewide, MSDH reported 1,212 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 115,088. The seven-day average of new cases is 726, higher by 244 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Saturday that 17 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,255. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.8%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

Of the 17 deaths MSDH reported Saturday, 13 occurred between Oct. 19 and Oct. 23 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Adams 1
Benton 1
Coahoma 1
Covington 1
Harrison 1
Leake 1
Lee 1
Monroe 1
Panola 1
Pontotoc 1
Tallahatchie 1
Wayne 1
Yazoo 1

Four COVID-19 related deaths reported Saturday occurred between Sept. 22 and Oct. 17 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified from death certificate reports
Lauderdale 1
Madison 1
Pearl River 1
Prentiss 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They dropped again through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been rising since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, is 701, more than half of the late July peak of about 1,200. The number includes 597 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 104 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 158 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 70 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 97,675 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 84.9% of the cumulative 115,088 cases reported Saturday, Oct. 24.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Oct. 3, was 1,428, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,373, or about 88.7% of the 1,548 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Oct. 24. The county has an estimated 120 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Oct. 10, is 900,479 or about 30.3% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. Without an updated number of tests, it is impossible to accurately calculate Mississippi’s positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average), however, the rate was 16.6% Thursday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5.8%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities was 133 Saturday. About 40.1%, or 1,304, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 26 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Oct. 11.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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