Scientists at NOAA are predicting a near-normal 2012 hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin. According to the prediction, there is a 70% likelihood that there will be nine to 15 named storms, four to eight hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes as compared to the climatological average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Currently, conditions favorable for development are near-average sea surface temperatures in the area of the central tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea known as the Main Development Region and continuation of the overall factors contributing to the high-activity era which has been experienced since 1995. Current conditions which could potentially inhibit development are strong wind shear, cooler sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic, and potentially El Nino if it develops by late summer or early fall.
Although the hurricane season does not officially begin until June 1st, 2012 has already seen two named storms during the month of May. Since 1851, only 18 tropical storms have formed during May and only two other tropical storms have formed during May in the last 31 years. The first storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, formed on May 19th off of the Southeast U.S. coast, but only lasted three days, never made landfall and caused minimal damage. The second storm, Tropical Storm Beryl, formed on May 26th off the coast of Northeast Florida. Beryl made landfall near Jacksonville just after midnight on May 28th (Memorial Day) with winds nearly 70 mph, dumping up to 10 inches of rain in some areas. The storm then tracked up the coast, dumping more heavy rain in southern Georgia and prompting the closures and evacuations of some beaches. As the remnants of Beryl moved over the eastern Carolinas, it continued to dump heavy rain and spawned an EF1 tornado in Carteret County, NC which damaged 40-50 homes.