As Americans hunker down to weather the pandemic this winter at home, nearly every facet of life will remain upended to safeguard against the coronavirus. Millions are working from home and learning remotely and even holiday gatherings will look a lot different this year. Staying closer to home may mean fewer weather worries for commutes and disruptions to daily activities, but AccuWeather has you covered on what you can expect weather-wise as we navigate uncertain times.Accuweather’s team of long-range forecasters, led by Senior Meteorologist Paul Pastelok, released its annual predictions for the upcoming winter season this week. The team has been analyzing global weather patterns and various weather models to project what conditions will unfold across the lower 48 United States this winter, which arrives on Dec. 21 this year. Much of the time the setup will be driven by one key factor: La Niña.La Niña is a phenomenon in which the surface water near the equator of the Pacific Ocean are cooler than normal, the opposite of El Niño when the water in the equatorial Pacific is in a warm phase. This change in the water temperature can have a major influence on the weather patterns all around the globe. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, La Niña officially developed by early September and is forecast to continue through the winter months.
The ongoing La Niña is projected to bring weather conditions similar to what meteorologists expect across the country during a typical La Niña pattern, but there may be a few subtle differences, Pastelok said.
Take a look below at a complete region-by-region breakdown:
The winter of 2019-2020 was tame across much of the northeastern U.S. with only a handful of Arctic outbreaks and very little snow to speak of along the Interstate 95 corridor — and the upcoming winter could bring some echoes of last winter.
„Another overall mild winter is possible for much of the eastern U.S.,” Pastelok said, referring how temperatures will compare to the 30-year averages in many places. However, he expects „near-normal snowfall across much of New England.”
And, it’s worth noting, the entire season will not be mild all the way through. Instead, the season will be bookended by cold and snowy conditions with a pause in the wintry weather in the middle of the season.
„An early-season chill is expected in the Great Lakes, Ohio Valley into the Northeast,” Pastelok said.
The first waves of chilly Arctic air will set off rounds of lake-effect snow downwind of the Great Lakes, as well as bring opportunities for snow in some of the bigger cities across the region heading into the holiday season.
„There is a good chance for a white Christmas in Chicago, perhaps around 30-35% chance at this point,” Pastelok said. „For Pittsburgh, much of the lake-effect snow could fall north of the city and it may be tough to keep snow on the ground. But from this far out I give a 15-20% chance for a white Christmas in Pittsburgh, but, still, there is a chance.”
|Christmas trees laden with freshly fallen snow are displayed for sale at Boston Hill Farm, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, in North Andover, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
After the calendar flips to 2021, Old Man Winter will eventually loosen his grip on the region.
„A big turn” is expected around the middle of the season as temperatures are predicted to rise and snowfall should decrease, Pastelok said, due in part to the strength and positioning of the polar vortex. More on that later.
But as the Northeast sees a break in the cold and snow, folks across the Great Lakes and Midwest will want to brace for some bitter spells of wintry weather.
There will be a favorable storm track mid-season for the Midwest and Great Lakes, leading to above-normal precipitation and a few heavy snowfalls events, Pastelok explained.
The storm track will eventually shift eastward during the latter part of the season, bringing the potential for some big coastal snowstorms.
|A woman shovels a yard during a snowstorm, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, in Ocean Grove, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)|
A period of stormy and snowy weather may occur later in February or March as nor’easters can develop and impact the region, Pastelok cautioned.
Even with the potential for some big snow events, the season as a whole is forecast to finish with near- to- below-average snowfall for much of the Northeast and Ohio Valley. In contrast, the Upper Midwest could pick up near- to- above-normal snowfall. Winter storms could dish out a whopping 55 to 65 inches of snowfall this season in Minneapolis, which sees 54.7 inches of snow on average based on data from 1991 to 2020.
The first part of the winter may be the coldest for the southeastern U.S., as a brief shot or two of cold air has the potential to rush down from the north all the way to the Gulf Coast.
„Early cold may take a run at the eastern U.S. if snow lays in the Ohio Valley and parts of the Tennessee Valley in December,” Pastelok said.
Atlanta, Huntsville, Alabama, Greeneville, South Carolina, and Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina, could all be hit by a cold snap to kick off the season. Even Floridians may want to make sure to dig out heavier coats from the closet sooner rather than later.
„There is a small chance for an early-season frost in northern and central Florida perhaps impacting the citrus crop,” Pastelok added.
Temperatures are projected to rebound as the season carries on, paving the way for much warmer conditions through the balance of the winter.
„Near-record warmth [is predicted] at times in the Southeast, occasionally extending into the mid-Atlantic,” Pastelok said.
This extended warmth will be good news for restaurants across the region that have added outdoor seating areas due to the coronavirus pandemic, and could perhaps allow them to utilize the extra space even during the winter months.
Restaurants that do have outdoor seating should still keep a close eye on the weather forecast, not just for temperatures, but also for disruptive storms, especially during the first few weeks of 2021.
|Empty outdoor seating for a restaurant and closed hotels are shown, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2020, in Miami Beach, Florida’s famed Ocean Drive on South Beach. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)|
„Severe thunderstorms may occur more than usual from the central Gulf Coast to the Southeast in late January and February,” Pastelok said.
Storms could not only spoil an outdoor meal but also bring gusty winds that could damage some of the temporary structures that have been constructed to keep patrons safe from the spread of the new coronavirus.
The central U.S. experienced a taste of winter as soon as autumn arrived. Meteorological fall began on the first day of September, and just one week later, a winter-like storm dove down across the Plains and northern Rockies, causing temperatures to tumble and delivering snow to the Rockies and some of the foothills. Denver saw the temperature go from a high of 93 one day in early September, to a low of 36 and snowfall the next day.
It may have been a shock to the system for people who live from Montana to New Mexico, but it was a preview of what is to come this winter.
„The middle of the nation may go through some big swings in temperatures, [and] dry and active periods,” Pastelok said. „Periods of subzero cold can drive south down the Front Range of the Rockies, the central and western Plains.”
Snow will be a prominent feature during these big swings, especially over the northern Rockies and into parts of Colorado, which will be beneficial for ski resorts across the region.
„Montana, Utah, Wyoming, and especially the west slopes of Colorado can do quite well” in terms of snowfall, Pastelok said.
There is also the chance for some frequent snowfall in the northern Plains in parts of Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.
Farther south, the chances for snow will be lower, including part of the southern Plains, the southern Rockies and westward into the Four Corners.
Meanwhile, the central Plains will be in the battleground zone, swinging from bitterly cold conditions to spells of milder weather and then back again in less than a week’s time.
While skiers in the mountains hope for snow to fall early and often, so too will some farmers across the Plains, especially in Kansas, western Oklahoma, and the Texas Panhandle, a major crop area for winter wheat, according to the USDA.
„If there is a lack of snowpack, this can endanger the winter wheat crop,” Pastelok said.
A lack of snow may compound the drought concerns for farmers across the region that could carry over into next year.
Farther west over the Four Corners and into Nevada where drought conditions are even worse, the lower frequency of storms will translate to longer-term drought issues.
According to the United States Drought Monitor, parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and far western Texas are already enduring extreme drought conditions. Some smaller areas are in the grips of exceptional drought conditions, the worst level of drought highlighted by the drought monitor report. Even in the spring when snow in the mountains melts and helps to fill rivers, a below-average snowpack would leave rivers at lower levels.
Autumn may feel shorter this year across the Pacific Northwest as wintry weather makes an early entrance across the region.
„Mountain snow and stormy conditions may arrive in late fall for the Northwest, northern California and northern Rockies,” Pastelok said.
Even the Interstate 5 corridor from Medford, Oregon, through Seattle will have several opportunities for accumulating snowfall, potentially even before 2020 draws to a close.
„It may not just be the Cascades that get hit, but interior Northwest areas, even down through Wasatch Mountains central Rockies and northwest Wyoming as well,” Pastelok added.
The waves of storms throughout the upcoming months will help to ease the drought conditions across the region, especially in Oregon where more than 60% of the state is in severe drought and over 30% is in an extreme drought.
More importantly, the early arrival of winter storms will spell the conclusion to a historic wildfire season that has charred millions of acres across Washington, Oregon and California.
However, after the flames have smoldered, heavy rains could pose an added danger in the burn scars left behind by the fires, especially in the mountainous terrain.
With a lack of healthy vegetation and root systems in place, the charred landscape is more susceptible to flooding and can quickly lead to flash floods and mudslides. In some cases, it can take years for vegetation to become reestablished to bring down the risk of flash flooding near burn scars.
|In this photo provided by Santa Barbara County Fire Department, mudflow, boulders, and debris from heavy rain runoff from early Tuesday reached the roof of a single story home in Montecito, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. A storm caused deadly mudslides in fire-scarred areas of Montecito and adjacent Santa Barbara County. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)|
An onslaught of storms tracking over the Pacific Northwest follows the typical trend of winter during La Niña, and the same can be said for the projected weather pattern across the southwestern U.S.
„We are not looking at any active track into Southern California this winter, just occasional rain events may reach these areas in January and February,” Pastelok said.
Similar to the Southeast, restaurants and bars across Southern California, Arizona and into southern Nevada that have constructed new outdoor seating areas amid the pandemic may benefit from the mild and dry pattern.
This is especially true in cities like Phoenix, which this year experienced a record-setting number of days where the temperature reached 110 F, where the heat could be too uncomfortable for outdoor dining.
A dry winter could also be good news for families looking to take a winter vacation to one of the many national parks across the region. People who had to cancel trips earlier in the year because of coronavirus-related restrictions or air quality concerns due to smoke from the large wildfires across the region may find some cooperative weather to travel through parts of the Southwest this winter.
Earlier this year, the polar vortex dipped down over northeastern Canada in April, causing Easter in many parts of the U.S. to look more like Christmas. What’s in store for the dreaded weather maker this coming winter? „We expect the polar vortex to strengthen again in the middle of the season this year,” Pastolek said, explaining that a strong polar vortex means the brutally cold Arctic air associated with it remains locked in place over the North Pole region. He said, however, that the strengthening will „probably not be as strong and won’t hold on as long as last year over the pole.”
But if the polar vortex holds strong, that could spell milder conditions for a significant stretch across parts of the Eastern Seaboard, at least for part of the season. „A strong polar vortex around the pole mid-season would lead to a possible January thaw that could linger into February for the East,” Pastelok said, expanding on what would drive the warmup for parts of the Northeast. „We are uncertain whether the vortex will play a role in the early cold shots in December, but it could have a brief role later in February or March.”
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The fierce 2020 hurricane season appears to be taking a breather.
For the first time in weeks, no tropical storms or hurricanes are spinning in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, according to the National Hurricane Center.
As of Thursday, no storms were forecast to develop over at least the next five days.
This year, 23 named storms have formed – about double the average for an entire season. The 23 storms included two storms named for Greek letters (Alpha and Beta), which became necessary when the seasonal list of 21 regular names was exhausted.
The USA has experienced nine landfalls from tropical systems this year, which ties 1916 for the most in one season, AccuWeather said.
Very few parts of the eastern and southern coasts have been spared: The only portion of the Gulf and East Coasts that has not been under some form of storm surge, tropical storm or hurricane watch or warning this year is the west coast of Florida, the Weather Channel reported.
Storms Alpha and Beta form: Hurricane season 2020 has been so busy, we have to use Greek letters
Looking ahead, the weather next week won’t feel very tropical in much of the central, eastern and southern USA, where an unusual (for October) invasion of Arctic air is forecast.
Some record cold temperatures are possible by the middle to end of the week, especially in the Midwest, where frosts and freezes look to be widespread.
While the eastern half of the nation shivers, the weather looks to be very hot and dry in the parched West next week, which will exacerbate the wildfire threat.
„For many in the West, the heat wave that will build next week will only add to what’s already been an arduous wildfire season fraught with widespread drought,” AccuWeather meteorologist Jacob Sojda said. Record highs are possible.
As for hurricanes, the break may only be temporary: “Given the extremely warm Caribbean and the push toward La Niña conditions, I do expect the rest of the season to be quite active,” Colorado State University meteorologist Phil Klotzbach told the Capital Weather Gang.
Are apples tasting any different to you this year? by Chaffin Mitchell•Farmers are often at the mercy of the elements. Severe weather such as derechos, flooding, hurricanes and frost can destroy their crops within several hours or over the span of a season.This year, a dry summer in the Northeast paired with a late-spring frost impacted apple crops across the region. And if you’ve done any apple picking this season, a popular fall activity throughout the Northeast, perhaps you’ve noticed a subtle difference in how apples taste this year.For one farmer, weather conditions early on in the season affected the apples on his orchard.Tim Salinger, the owner of the 71-acre Salinger Orchard in Brewster, New York, a village located 50 miles northeast of New York City, told AccuWeather National Reporter Dexter Henry one of the main issues that affected the 2020 apple harvest was the late-season frost that gripped the area back in the springtime.”Some of our early apples were frostbitten, so they were in full bloom when we had those late snow showers and 20-degree evenings in April and May,” Salinger said.
|Tim Salinger picks an apple on his apple orchard in Brewster, New York. (AccuWeather / Dexter Henry)|
But the factor that really impacted the size and the flavor of the fruit, Salinger said, occurred over the summer.
Dry conditions also led to some difficulties for the orchard owner. Scarce summer rainfall left the area abnormally dry, according to the United States Drought Monitor. In nearby Poughkeepsie, New York, rainfall totals were only 54 percent of average from June through August.
„We didn’t have any loss of trees but definitely sizing and fruit was affected by the lack of rain this summer,” Salinger told Henry in an interview.
Persistent dry weather can yield smaller apples, according to Salinger. But on the other hand, dry weather can have a positive impact on the taste of the fall staple, he explained.
„The sweetness level can actually be on par or higher because there is less water in each piece of fruit,” Sallinger said.
Apples actually do quite well when the total rainfall for a summer is right around normal or even slightly below, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.
„Apples are usually one of the more resistant fruits to dramatic weather changes, but can still be impacted negatively,” Rossio said.
„When it’s a very wet year, the apples can get moldy or become bruised, yielding a bad crop,” Rossio said. „However, in the case of a rather dry year with below-average rainfall, apples often end up much smaller, albeit they can end up much sweeter.”
The smaller, but sweeter fruit may be preferred for eating, he said, but larger apples are often chosen for juicing apples to make larger batches of cider or for cooking. „Many folks like to have bigger apples for cooking purposes as well, since you can do more with less and make a pie with fewer apples,” Rossio said.
Despite seasonal challenges, Salinger says people are visiting the orchard to purchase a variety of apples along with top-sellers like apple cider and baked goods, adding that coronavirus pandemic has factored into the turnout.
„There’s just less activity for families and people to do right now. So going out to the country and picking apples is definitely a priority for people these September and October months,” Salinger said.
|Visitors shop for apples at the Salinger’s Orchard in Brewster, New York. (AccuWeather / Dexter Henry)|
As picking season continues into the early fall months, Salinger hopes for cooler weather.
„Most apple farms are actually looking for some of those cooler days and crisp nights. It helps color the fruit a little better and also gets people into the fall spirit and out to the farms,” Salinger said.
Reporting by AccuWeather National Reporter Dexter Henry.
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The road to the 2020 French Open has been anything but ordinary. After a month-long postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, players have had to compete against more than just one another on the court.
The weather itself has been the most unrelenting opponent for this year’s French Open. When qualifying rounds began back on Sept. 21, Paris was recovering from a scorching heat wave. High temperatures for the first two days of play climbed near 26.7 C (80 F), which is more than 5.5 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal for late-September. Then, on day three of play, the first in a long line of storms to come swept into northern France.
From that third day on, each day of the tournament has recorded measurable rain and lower-than-normal temperatures. High temperatures each day have struggled to reach 14-17 C (upper 50s F to lower 60s F), up to 5.5 degrees Celsius (10 degrees Fahrenheit) colder than normal.
Playing conditions have been miserable for many players so far, and unfortunately for them, there is no end to the wet, chilly weather in sight.
One player, Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, walked off the court during her first round match and complaining of chilly conditions, according to AFP.
„It’s too cold. I live in Florida. I’m used to hot weather,” she said.
After a fast-moving storm brings a quick-hitting round of rain to much of northern and western France overnight Wednesday, the newly named windstorm Storm Alex will take aim at the country. Storm Alex will likely be the most potent in a string of disruptive storms to impact France during the grand slam event.
Rain from Storm Alex will begin to spread over all of France Thursday night into Friday morning, with the heaviest rain expected to fall near the center of the system and along western France during this time.
Downpours will continue near the center of Storm Alex on Friday while an additional area of downpours will develop over portions of southern and southeastern France. Rounds of rain and localized heavy downpours will continue each day into early next week across much of the country, as Storm Alex tracks slowly eastward.
Rain amounts of 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) are likely across western France and into the Alps with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 150 mm (6 inches) possible, especially into the higher elevations. A general 25-50 mm (1-2 inches) of rain is expected to fall elsewhere across France.
Areas caught under the heaviest downpours from Storm Alex will be most at risk for flash flooding issues. Heavy downpours can even lead to a handful of mudslides in the higher elevations.
Along with rain, Storm Alex will also bring periods of gusty winds to portions of France beginning Thursday night.
„Wind gusts of 65-80 km/h (40-50 mph) are forecast across the southern coast of the United Kingdom and Ireland, western and southern France and northern Spain with the AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 97 km/h (60 mph),” AccuWeather Meteorologist Rob Richards said.
For Paris itself, rainfall totals will generally fall within 25-50 mm (1-2 inches), with wind gusts in the 48-65 km/h (30-40 mph) range will be produced as a result of Storm Alex.
|Sep 30, 2020; Paris, France; Simona Halep (ROU) in action during her match against Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU) on day four at Stade Roland Garros. Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports|
While many may be quick to place the blame for this cold, blustery weather solely on the late September start, it is important to note these conditions are unusual even for early autumn.
Despite the tournament being separated by months from its typical timeframe, the average daytime high temperatures for late May and late September are rather similar. From late May into early June, temperatures will typically climb into the 20-21 C range (upper 60s F to near 70 F) in Paris. In late September and early October, temperatures will still reach the 18-20 C range (middle to upper 60s F).
„Sometimes cool, ugly weather makes an appearance while the French Open is played during its typical time in late May into early June. But with it [typically] just weeks away from the summer solstice, the high sun angle can warm things up much more quickly,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.
The French Open is usually the second major tennis tournament of the sport’s calendar, following the Australia Open in January, and preceding Wimbledon (late June into mid-July) and the U.S. Open (late August into (mid-September). Wimbledon was the only major tournament to be cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
What little sunshine does manage to peek through an overall cloudy week for those at Roland-Garros will not result in much progress toward pleasant playing conditions.
„With it now past the autumnal equinox and much lower sun angles, it is much harder for the sun to help with this unusually chilly air mass for this time of the year,” Lundberg added.
Fortunately, this year’s tournament does have some protection from the elements as the main court at Roland-Garros now is equipped with a retractable roof. Prior to this year, the French Open was the only major tennis tournament not to have a roof over its primary court, the famed Philippe-Chatrier court. However, not every court at the Roland-Garros is covered.
Wet, breezy and chilly weather from Storm Alex will likely create playing conditions more brutal than what players have experience thus far at the French Open. High temperatures will struggle to reach the 14-15 C range (upper 50s F) through the end of the week, with even lower temperatures expected for the weekend.
|View of the empty seats on Suzanne Lenglen court as rain suspended most matches in the first round of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)|
In addition to the impact of the cool and wet conditions on the players themselves, the clay courts at Roland-Garros are extremely prone to changing weather. Clay itself is rather porous and can absorb water quite easily. Even slightly damp conditions on the court can impact the movement of the tennis ball. As the courts absorb water, the height of the bounce of the tennis ball will decrease, which could lead to more errors.
For players wondering when these difficult playing conditions will improve, the answer may not be what they want to hear. Forecasters are monitoring the potential for another large storm system to swing through much of Europe later next week.
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AccuWeather meteorologists are monitoring for a return in tropical development expected to take place as October begins following a pause in tropical activity amid what has been a hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season.
The lull of tropical activity across the basin over the last week or so has been in part thanks to an area of strong wind shear across the center of the Atlantic Ocean. Wind shear, or the change in direction and speed of winds at increasing heights in the atmosphere, is notoriously disruptive to the tropical development process.
However, any tropical wave that is able to survive the disruptive, strong winds could encounter a more favorable environment farther west across the Caribbean. A gyre is expected to develop over Central America, and the setup will help to influence conditions for possible growth of tropical systems in the western Caribbean.
A gyre is a slowly spinning wind pattern that rotates counterclockwise. The spin from the gyre tends to create an area of low pressure, which could become better organized and develop into a tropical system.
„A tropical wave moving into the Western Caribbean along the northern side gyre will help low pressure to form on Friday or this weekend and may become an organized tropical feature by early next week,” AccuWeather’s lead hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.
The development of such a feature could take place in the Bay of Honduras as early as late on Friday or Saturday.
„It is possible that any tropical development waits until the feature reaches the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula on Sunday or Monday,” added Kottlowski.
Should this tropical feature reach tropical storm strength, it would be given the name Gamma, becoming only the second „Gamma storm” ever to form in the Atlantic Basin.
If a tropical system develops, it is most likely to continue to drift westward through next week, targeting the Mexico Gulf Coast from Heroica Veracruz to Tampico. However, there is still a small chance that the tropical system could be steered northward toward the United States Gulf Coast. The slower the development, the more likely the tropical system will aim for Mexico.
Whether an organized tropical feature develops or not, the tropical wave and gyre will deliver rounds of heavy rainfall to Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico into the weekend, as well as the threat of mudslides in higher elevations. A more westerly track would bring this heavy rain to the Mexico Gulf Coast as well.
The current feature in Caribbean isn’t the only zone that warrants a close watch, according to AccuWeather meteorologists.
A strong tropical wave has been pushing through the dominant wind shear in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and is forecast to reach the Windward and Leeward Islands on Friday.
„The Lesser Antilles can anticipate tropical downpours and gusty winds Friday and through the weekend as the tropical wave moves into the Caribbean Sea,” Kottlowski said.
With the current gyre in Central America likely to remain in place through next week, this second wave could also become an organized tropical feature during the middle of next week in the northwestern Caribbean.
Residents across the Caribbean, Central America and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States should be sure not to let their guard down, despite the recent lull in tropical activity.
The month of October, statistically and climatologically, is not as active as September is but can often produce some very impactful tropical systems — and the past 15 years have been no exception.
Hurricane Michael ravaged the Florida Panhandle when it made landfall in Mexico Beach as a Category 5 storm on Oct. 10 of 2018. Just six years prior, Hurricane Sandy pushed through the Caribbean before targeting the northeastern U.S., devastating communities in New York and New Jersey.
In 2005, Hurricane Wilma broke the record for having the lowest barometric pressure of any tropical system ever in the Atlantic Ocean and the second-most intense hurricane ever in Western Hemisphere. Wilma was a Category 5 hurricane at its peak, but it made landfall in Florida on Oct. 24 at Category 3 intensity.
The infamous 2005 Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which spawned not just Wilma but also hurricanes Katrina and Rita, was the only season to reach „Gamma” in the tropical names list. Tropical Storm Gamma formed on Nov. 18, adding to the dozens of earliest-recorded storm records the season produced. However, many of those records have since been replaced by new records set during 2020 tropical season.
From the start in the spring, AccuWeather long-range meteorologists, led by veteran Kottlowski, stressed that an above-average season was coming. By the middle of the summer, AccuWeather also warned that a hyperactive peak hurricane season was about to unfold.