‘Aggressive’ hurricane season forecast for Texas Gulf Coast

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Researchers at Colorado State University have just released their hurricane season forecast, calling this year’s outlook the “most aggressive” ever: a 54% chance a hurricane will strike the Texas coast, including a 25% chance that it will be major.

Justin Ballard, the Houston Chronicle’s newsroom meteorologist, joined the Standard with more about what the forecast could mean for Texas.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: On average, Texas experiences a major hurricane every six years or so. It was seven years ago since Hurricane Harvey hit – are we overdue?

Justin Ballard: It certainly seems that way, at least by looking at the numbers. You know, the last hurricane that made landfall was in 2021 with Nicholas. It’s been a little while since we’ve had any kind of direct landfall impacts here in the state of Texas, which I don’t think anyone’s complaining about, but it is likely going to change as we head into the upcoming hurricane season.

Can you break down the significance of the probability figures? A 54% chance likelihood sounds pretty scary, but then again, those odds are just about even.

Just to kind of give you an idea of the year-to-year chances of a hurricane landfall somewhere along the Texas coast: It’s about 34%.

So we’re looking at just a slight hair over 50%, as opposed to the normal 30- 35% chance on a year-to-year basis. So it’s a good deal higher, certainly.

A lot of people have talked about the impact of climate change increasing the frequency and the devastation of hurricanes. And yet, as I mentioned, we’ve gone without a major hurricane strike longer than the average number of years now. How do you square that?

Well, I mean, if you look back at what the last significant hurricane to impact the state of Texas was – and I think we all remember it very, very well, especially here in the Houston area – that was in 2017 with Harvey. So, you know, you look at the damage wrought during Harvey: $125 billion worth of damage, and that’s just kind of the more conservative, the lower-end number.

These storms are becoming, yes, more common, more intense, but they’re also becoming more destructive with the amount of damage that they can cause just because things are more expensive.

Historically, Texans have been pretty hurricane aware. There are evacuation routes marked all along the Texas Gulf Coast, and inland too. Are you concerned things might be different now? And how much of a danger is there that over the years we’ve let our guard down a little?

Well, that’s obviously the biggest communication challenge that we face as forecasters, as meteorologists, is communicating, “yes, there is a risk for, x, y, z thing.” And it’s too early to tell where exactly hurricane – or hurricanes, if there are more than one – make landfall this season along the Texas Gulf Coast.

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Everyone, whether you’re in Beaumont, you’re in Brownsville you need to be prepared for hurricane landfalls, as you do every other year. But yes, there certainly is that concern that people have kind of let their guard down in recent years because it’s been so long since we’ve had a major hurricane make landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast.

What is your sense about how well-prepared we are for another major hurricane? And we do have a lot of new residents constantly moving to the state, so is that a concern?

Really and truly, I am kind of one of those new residents: I moved here in July of last year. So I really didn’t get to experience – thankfully, we’re knocking on wood here – a true hurricane season in Texas.

But yes, there is certainly some concern that there are new folks that are here in Texas. My biggest advice is, if you do live in an area of the state that is prone to hurricanes – this obviously includes Houston, Corpus Christi, basically any county along the coastline – you need to know what you are going to do in the event of a hurricane.

There’s plenty of resources that the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service provide to help you and your family plan and prepare for the upcoming hurricane season. The easiest thing to do is prepare now, before the start of the season.

Anything else you’d want people to know about this upcoming season?

You don’t have to do it all at once, all the preparing, right? You can do some small things, like going to the grocery store and buying a couple of nonperishable items or a couple of gallons of water. I think the recommendation is one gallon per person per day.

So make sure you’ve got that stuff stocked up before June 1st. It’s easier to do it a little bit at a time, as opposed to trying to stock up and go to the grocery store when everyone else is also going to the grocery store to stock up.