The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is urging everyone to prepare for an above-normal hurricane season. Here’s how risk managers can respond

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has increased its prediction for the ongoing 2023 Atlantic hurricane season from a near-normal level of activity to an above-normal level of activity.

The Atlantic basin has already experienced an active start to the hurricane season with five storms that have reached at least tropical storm strength, including one hurricane already.

Hurricane names

Source: NOAA

An average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

However, NOAA’s update - which covers the entire six-month hurricane season - calls for 14-21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 6-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater).

Of those, 2-5 could become major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). 

The main climate factors expected to influence the 2023 Atlantic hurricane activity are the ongoing El Nino and the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, including record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

El Nino conditions are currently being observed and there is a greater than 95% chance that this will continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter, according to the latest ENSO discussion from the Climate Prediction Center.

”The updated outlook calls for more activity, so we urge everyone to prepare now for the continuing season.”

El Nino usually results in atmospheric conditions that help to lessen tropical activity during the Atlantic hurricane season.

So far, those limiting conditions have been slow to develop and climate scientists are forecasting they may not be in place for much of the remaining hurricane season.

A below-normal wind shear forecast, slightly below-normal Atlantic trade winds and a near- or above-normal West African Monsoon were also key factors in shaping this updated seasonal forecast.

Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said: “Considering those factors, the updated outlook calls for more activity, so we urge everyone to prepare now for the continuing season.”

 What next? How risk managers can prepare for hurricanes

Aon’s top tips for building hurricane resilience

1) Identify key stakeholders.  

When building a plan for hurricane season, a critical element of a proactive response plan is to identify key personnel and external consultants and resources, such as your broker, insurance adjuster, legal, accounting/finance, restoration contractors (along with their contact information), should an event cause damage or render sites temporarily inoperable.

2) Designate a response leader. 

It’s also important to designate an internal leader, such as the CFO or risk manager, and alternate staff to coordinate the response and claims teams to ensure all plan elements are implemented on a timely basis. Creating a flowchart or playbook showing the response and claim elements will help make the entire process more efficient.

In addition, simulating the plan using various event scenarios will help work out any issues. Consider implementing “call trees” within the organisation, ensuring you can effectively reach all members of your team during and after an event.

It is also highly recommended that these items are included, or cross-referenced, in business continuity plans.

3) Understand your business interruption risks. 

The plan should also include a comprehensive evaluation of all your organisation’s plants and locations situated in hurricane regions to ensure a thorough understanding of business interruption and asset values and their general exposure to hurricanes and other major storm events.

There are a number of “apps” available to provide business continuity plans on mobile devices to ensure that all team members have the details at their fingertips.

4) Address, wind, flooding, power outages and loss of communications resources. 

One lesson learned from major storms is that planning must address not only wind-related loss, but storm surge, flooding, extended power outages, and interruption of landline, cell phone and internet access, as well as site inaccessibility.