It's hurricane season: What that means for Costa Rica

The NOAA predicts another active Atlantic hurricane season.

Today marks the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season. Until the end of November, much of Central America, the Caribbean and the southeastern United States should prepare for tropical cyclones.

What do experts predict for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and what should Costa Rica expect? Let’s explore.

Another active hurricane season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the United States predicts an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season:

Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020. 

Specifically, the NOAA expects 13-20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6-10 could become hurricanes (74 mph+) with 3-5 major hurricanes (111 mph+).

Central America still recovering from 2020

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season featured 30 named storms, a record high. Parts of Central America are still recovering from the double strike of Hurricanes Eta and Iota last November.

“Large numbers of affected communities continue to face water and sanitation problems, destroyed homes, lack of access to food, and unreconstructed land routes,” says CARE, a non-governmental organization.

The damage is particularly notable in Guatemala and Honduras, which endured the brunt of the two major cyclones.

Honduras alone suffered an estimated $1.8 billion in damages as the storms impacted half of its population, according to a United Nations report.

Hurricanes uncommon in Costa Rica

A hurricane has never made landfall in Costa Rica in recorded history. However, the National Meteorological Institute (IMN) is quick to note that “hurricanes are the atmospheric phenomena that cause the most damage to Costa Rica.”

That damage has been especially noteworthy in recent years.

In 2016, Hurricane Otto made landfall in Nicaragua but tracked into northern Costa Rica, devastating the canton of Upala with torrential rainfall. The following year, flooding from Tropical Storm Nate killed 14 people in Costa Rica and left hundreds of thousands without drinkable water.

As with Eta and Iota, Costa Rica more frequently experiences secondary effects from cyclones in the Caribbean Sea. Surprisingly, those storms typically affect the Pacific slope of Costa Rica by causing heavy rains, landslides and floods.

How to track storms

The National Hurricane Center, part of the NOAA, is a go-to resource for tracking Atlantic tropical cyclones and disturbances. In Costa Rica, follow the IMN; the National Emergency Commission gets involved if dangerous weather is forecast.

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