This surprisingly slow hurricane season is heading into the home stretch only two hurricanes have developed so far, a far cry from the early predictions of an above-average season. A disturbed weather system called Invest 95L is gaining strength near Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and the National Hurricane Center is giving it a 60 percent chance of developing into a tropical cyclone and possibly becoming Tropical Storm Ingrid in it's Tuesday afternoon update. It's still too early for computer models to be much help in predicting potential course or strength, but early projections do show a possibility that the system might bounce off an approaching cold front and turn it toward Florida. As we've mentioned before, systems that emerge into the Gulf of Mexico will end up hitting land somewhere, so it's a good idea for everyone along the gulf coast to keep an eye on Invest 95L.
Weather-wise this year's hurricane season is reduced to a more or less one-dimensional threat. As Dr. Jeff Masters of the Weather Underground notes in his Monday blog entry dry air is dominating the Atlantic tropical cyclone nursery. “I give only a 30% chance that we will see a tropical storm develop between the Lesser Antilles Islands and coast of Africa during the remainder of hurricane season. However, we will likely get several more tropical storms forming in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, or waters near the Bahamas during the remainder of the season.”
Even though the danger from tropical storms and hurricanes seems much reduced for Florida residents, there's a very real danger for homeowners that could show up in mailboxes in the next few years. Seeking to put federal flood insurance on a more sound financial footing Congress passed the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act in 2012. According to a recent article in the Tampa Bay Times residents and businesses that have benefited from subsidized rates are going to be looking at 20 to 25 percent rate increases when their new policies arrive. People buying older homes could find themselves paying up to 5 times as much for flood insurance.
With some 50 thousand homes in Pinellas County alone, Florida lawmakers are looking for ways to soften the blow or at least stretch it out, but the fact is that there is less patience among taxpayers from less flood-prone states to subsidize artificially low rates in states like Florida that are at greater risk. Flood zones are a key part of determining what insurance rates will look like and they are generally available via the Internet. Hillsborough County has posted its latest maps here. The video attached to this article is generic, but may be of some help in understanding how insurance companies decide to set their premium rates.