The Southeast U.S. is saying bye-bye to the former Tropical Storm Beryl, which brought an unwanted disruption to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. I've lost count of the number of people who've asked me if this storm and its predecessor Alberto mean we're in for a busy season. Ultimately, there may be fewer overall storms, but that won't matter if a storm hits us or another populated area on a part of the Gulf or Atlantic coasts.
All signs are pointing to fewer total storms because a) the Atlantic waters, especially off the West Coast of Africa, are not as warm now as they were this same time in 2011; and b) La Niña is waning. The latter should lead to higher winds over the tropics, stunting development. The official forecast from NOAA, the parent body of the National Weather Service indicates that between 9 and 15 storms will form with 4 to 8 becoming hurricanes.
Beryl was rare because not only did it form early, but it also made landfall. The second named storm of 2012 was the first tropical storm to hit Jacksonville since 1964. In that year, there were a total of 12 named storms and six hurricanes. The last tropical storm to hit the U.S. in May was Arlene back in 1959. That year yielded eleven named storms, seven of which were hurricanes including Debra which struck the Texas coast, just east of Freeport. That category 1 hurricane briefly impacted the Houston area, toward the end of July of that year.
So while everyone tries to read the tea leaves of this early season, I'll take the more pragmatic approach - prepare for the worst, hope for the best.