Get ready for an above-average hurricane season in 2018

Get ready for an above-average hurricane season in 2018

Posted: May 24, 2018 8:36 AM MSTUpdated: May 24, 2018 8:38 AM MST

Credit: Shutterstock
Credit: Shutterstock

By Taylor Ward CNN

(CNN) — The 2018 hurricane season is shaping up to be “near- or above-normal” — though not to the degree seen last year, when 17 named storms formed and three major hurricanes struck US soil — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

Ten to 16 named storms — including five to nine hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes with Category 3 strength or higher — are predicted this Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1, the federal agency predicted.

Last year’s season ended with 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes. The Atlantic basin annually averages 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

NOAA added that there is a 75% chance that the 2018 season will see near or more than the average number of storms in the basin.

“The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts,” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

As usual, the latest forecast cannot offer the bit of information most critical to residents living in hurricane-prone areas, from the Gulf Coast of Texas to the Carolinas and, sometimes, as far north as Boston: precisely where this year’s storms might strike.

Harvey, Irma and Maria last year took aim, respectively, at the Houston area, Florida and Puerto Rico. They put a dramatic end to a 12-year period with no major hurricane landfalls in the United States and ranked among the top five costliest hurricanes in history.

El Niño pattern could make for fewer storms

The 2017 season was very active, in part, because of a weak La Niña that developed during the six-month hurricane season that ends December 1.

La Niña is a naturally occurring phenomenon characterized by cooler than normal water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region. While La Niña occurs in the Pacific Ocean, it has a widespread impact on the global climate. That includes decreased wind shear across the tropical Atlantic, which creates favorable conditions for tropical development.

Now, an El Niño pattern could develop by late fall or winter. El Niño features warmer water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region, creating greater wind shear in the Atlantic, and thus, fewer tropical storms.

If El Niño develops earlier than expected, the Atlantic hurricane season may be less active than anticipated.

2018 season may get an early start

For now — a week ahead of the 2018 season’s official start — the hurricane center is already monitoring the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

As Memorial Day approaches, forecasters predict an 80% chance of tropical or subtropical development by the end of the long weekend.

Regardless of whether the system gets named as it moves north through the central and eastern gulf, places in Florida and into the Southeast will see scattered to numerous showers and thunderstorms daily.

Other 2018 season forecasts

Beyond the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, dubbed NOAA, most meteorologists agree that the 2018 season will be near or above average.

Colorado State University, among the most well-regarded forecasting institutions, has predicted 14 named storms, with seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. It will update its forecast, issued last month, on May 31.

The Weather Company predicts slightly less activity than Colorado State. It forecasts a season that’s near average, with 12 named storms, including five hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Meantime, North Carolina State University researchers expect 14 to 18 named storms, with seven to 11 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.

TM & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

How did Google get so big? 60 Minutes reports on the power of Google, a company whose critics say has stifled competition

Interesting profile about Google on this week’s 60 Minutes by veteran journalist @SteveKroft


How did Google get so big?

60 Minutes reports on the power of Google, a company whose critics say has stifled competition

This past week the Federal Trade Commission was asked to investigate the data collected by Google on its Android operating system, which powers most of the world’s smartphones. It was a tiny blip in the news cycle but another sign of Washington’s and Europe’s growing concerns about the enormous, largely unchecked power accumulated by tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Google over the last two decades. Of the three, Google, which is part of a holding company called Alphabet is the most powerful, intriguing, and omnipresent in our lives. This is how it came to be.

Most people love Google. It’s changed our world, insinuated itself in our lives, made itself indispensable. You probably don’t even have to type into your computer, it’s often the default setting, a competitive advantage Google paid billions of dollars for. No worry. Google is worth more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars right now and you don’t get that big by accident.


Since going public in 2004, Google has acquired more than 200 companies, expanding its reach across the internet. It bought YouTube, the biggest video platform. It bought Android, the operating system that runs 80% of the world’s smartphones and it bought DoubleClick, which distributes much of the world’s digital advertising, all of this barely raising an eyebrow with regulators in Washington.

Steve Kroft: Were any of those acquisitions questioned by the antitrust division of the Justice Department?

Gary Reback: Some were investigated, but only superficially, the government just really isn’t enforcing our antitrust laws. And that’s what’s happened. None of these acquisitions have been challenged.

Gary Reback is one of the most prominent antitrust lawyers in the country widely credited with persuading the Justice Department to sue Microsoft back in the 90s, the last major antitrust case against big tech. Now he is battling Google.

Steve Kroft: You think Google’s a monopoly? 

Gary Reback: Oh, yes, of course Google’s a monopoly. In fact they’re a monopoly in several markets. They’re a monopoly in search. They’re a monopoly in search advertising.

Those technologies are less than 25 years old, and may seem small compared to the industrial monopolies like railroads and standard oil a century ago but Reback says there’s nothing small about Google.

“People tell their search engine things they wouldn’t even tell their wives… And that gives the company that controls it a mind-boggling degree of control over our entire society.”

Gary Reback: Google makes the internet work. The internet would not be accessible to us without a search engine

Steve Kroft: And they control it.

Gary Reback: They control access to it. That’s the important part. Google is the gatekeeper for– for the World Wide Web, for the internet as we know it. It is every bit as important today as petroleum was when John D. Rockefeller was monopolizing that.


Gary Reback, an antitrust lawyer who persuaded the Justice Department to sue Microsoft in the 90s


Last year, Google conducted 90% of the world’s internet searches. When billions of people asked trillions of questions it was Google that provided the answers using computer algorithms known only to Google.

Jonathan Taplin: They have this phrase they use, “competition is just a click away.” They have no competition. Bing, their competition, has 2% of the market. They have 90%.

Jonathan Taplin is a digital media expert and director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.  He says Google’s expertise may be technology, but its business is advertising. And its most valuable commodity is highly specialized information about us. It’s helped Google control roughly 60% of worldwide advertising revenue on the internet. Taplin says traditional companies can’t compete because they don’t have the data.

Jonathan Taplin: They know who you are, where you are, what you just bought, what you might wanna buy. And so if I’m an advertiser and I say, “I want 24-year-old women in Nashville, Tennessee who drive trucks and drink bourbon,” I can do that on Google.

Gary Reback: People tell their search engines things they wouldn’t even tell their wives. I mean, it’s a very powerful and yet very intimate technology. And that gives the company that controls it a mind-boggling degree of control over our entire society.

Google is so dominant in search and search advertising that analysts and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley say it’s extremely difficult for startups to get funding if their business model requires them to compete with Google for ad revenue.

Jeremy Stoppelman co-founded Yelp more than a decade ago — a website that collects local reviews on everything from auto mechanics to restaurants nationwide and makes money selling ads.

Jeremy Stoppelman: The initial promise of Google was to organize the world’s information. And ultimately that manifested itself in you expecting that the top links, the things that it shows at the top of that page are the best from around the web. The best that the world has to offer. And I could tell you that is not the case. That is not the case anymore.

Instead of doing what’s best for consumers, Stoppelman says Google is doing what’s best for Google.

Jeremy Stoppelman: If I were starting out today, I would have no shot of building Yelp. That opportunity has been closed off by Google and their approach.

Steve Kroft: In what way?

Jeremy Stoppelman: Because if you provide great content in one of these categories that is lucrative to Google, and seen as potentially threatening, they will snuff you out.

Steve Kroft: What do you mean snuff you out?

Jeremy Stoppelman: They will make you disappear. They will bury you.


Jeremy Stoppelman, co-founder of Yelp


Yelp and countless other sites depend on Google to bring them web traffic – eyeballs for their advertisers. But now Stoppelman says their biggest competitor in the most lucrative markets is Google. He says it’s collecting and bundling its own information on things like shopping and travel and putting it at the very top of the search results, regardless of whether it belongs there on merit. He showed us how it worked by Googling sushi San Francisco.

Jeremy Stoppelman: All the prime real estate is here. This is where the consumer, their eye focuses. And that’s by design; Google wants you to pay attention to their content.

All of the information here is owned by Google from the maps to the reviews.  Stoppelman says if you click on any of these links at the top of the page you may think you’ve gone to another website but in fact you will still be on Google, seeing what it wants you to see while it collects your personal information and maybe exposes you to Google advertising.

Steve Kroft: If you click anything inside this box, you stay on Google and they make more money?

Jeremy Stoppelman: That’s right.

“Google wields enormous power across the industry. And they set the rules. The question is who’s watching Google?”

Google told us it doesn’t have anything to do with money, it’s about improving its product by making searches quicker and easier for its customers by eliminating the need to click through lots of other sites.

Stoppelman says it’s about stifling competition, pushing it down the page where it’s less likely to be seen. The advantage, he says, is even more striking if you look at the search results on a smartphone.

Jeremy Stoppelman: This is exactly what your phone would look like in the palm of your hand. This is all of Google’s own property, right here. It takes up the entire screen.

Steve Kroft: How important is that first page?

Jeremy Stoppelman: It’s not even just the first page, it’s the first few links on the page is the vast majority of where user attention goes, and where the traffic flows.

Steve Kroft: So if you’re not at the top of the page or at the bottom of the first page, or on the second page, that’s gonna affect your business?

Jeremy Stoppelman: Yeah, if you’re on the second page, forget it you’re not a real business.

Yelp, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Expedia, and Yahoo all complained about Google’s dominance and what they called its anti-competitive behavior to the Federal Trade Commission, which in 2011 conducted an investigation.

According to a confidential memo – parts of which were inadvertently given to the Wall Street Journal years later – the FTC’s Bureau of Competition had recommended that an antitrust lawsuit be filed against Google for some of its business practices. It said “Google is in the unique position of being able to ‘make or break any web-based business'” and “has  strengthened its monopolies over search and search advertising through anti-competitive means” and “forestalled competitors and would-be competitors’ ability to challenge those monopolies.” It specifically cited Google for stealing competitors’ content, and imposing restrictions on advertisers and other websites that limited their ability to utilize other search engines. But the recommendations were rejected.

Gary Reback: It flatly says that Google’s conduct was anti-competitive. It flatly says that Google’s conduct hurt consumers. I mean, what else would you need to know to vote out a complaint? There it is, written by your own staff. And yet, nothing happened.

Steve Kroft: They closed the case?

Gary Reback: They closed the case, correct.

The FTC’s commissioners decided that Google’s conduct could be addressed with voluntary improvements to some of its business practices – and that Google’s decision to move its own products to the top of the search page could plausibly be of benefit to consumers. But Reback and others who were directly involved in the investigation have long suspected that the outcome had something to do with Google’s political muscle in Washington and its close relationship with the Obama administration. Google spent more money on lobbying last year than any other corporation, employing 25 different firms and helping fund 300 trade associations, think tanks and other groups many of which influence policy.

Gary Reback: They have a seat at the table in every discussion that implicates this issue at all. They know about developments that we never even hear about. So their influence – from my perspective is very, very difficult to challenge. 

Right now the only one taking aggressive action against Google and the power of big tech is Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner for the European Union. During her four years in office, Vestager has become a thorn in the side of Silicon Valley, fining Facebook $122 million for a merger violation and ordering Ireland to recover $15 billion in taxes owed by Apple. Last summer she levied a record $2.7 billion fine against Google for depriving certain competitors of a chance to compete with them.


Margrethe Vestager, the competition commissioner for the European Union


Margrethe Vestager: Just as well as I admire some of the innovation by Google over the last decade– well, I want their illegal behavior to stop.

Steve Kroft: And that’s what you feel has gone on.

Margrethe Vestager: Not only do we feel it, we mean that we can prove it. 

In researching the case, Vestager says her staff went through 1.7 billion Google search queries and found that Google was manipulating its secret search formulas—or algorithms—to promote its own products and services and sending its competitors into oblivion.

Margrethe Vestager: It’s very difficult to find the rivals. Because on average, you’d find them only on page four in your search results.

Steve Kroft: And why so far down?

Margrethe Vestager: Well, because then you don’t find them. I don’t– I don’t know anyone who goes to page four in their search result. The– jokingly, you could say that this is where you should keep your secrets. Because no one ever comes there.

Steve Kroft: Do you think this has been deliberate on Google’s part?

Margrethe Vestager: Yes. We think that this is done on purpose.

Steve Kroft: How do they do it? I think everybody has this idea that Google has this algorithm. And they put the best searches right at the top.

Margrethe Vestager: Well, it is exactly the algorithm that does it. Both the– the promotion of Google themselves and the demotion of others.

Steve Kroft: So, they’re rigging the game.

Margrethe Vestager: Yes. And it is illegal.

Google has paid its 2.7 billion fine and is aggressively appealing the decision. But for now, Stoppelman says everyone is still playing by Google’s rules.

Steve Kroft: If you’re in business, you have to be on Google.

Jeremy Stoppelman: Yeah. Google wields enormous power across the industry. And they set the rules. The question is who’s watching Google?

Google declined our request for an interview with one of its executives for this story, but in a written response to our questions, the company denied it was a monopoly in search or search advertising, citing many competitors including Amazon and Facebook. It says it does not make changes to its algorithm to disadvantage competitors and that, “our responsibility is to deliver the best results possible to our users, not specific placements for sites within our results. We understand that those sites whose ranking falls will be unhappy and may complain publicly.”

Produced by Maria Gavrilovic. Associate producer, Alex Ortiz.

Forecasters Are Warning the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Will Be Worse Than Usual

2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season starts June 1, 2018. Are you prepared?

Phoenix, AZ – May 11, 2018 – Less than three weeks remain for the start of this year’s Atlantic-basin hurricane season impacting Florida, Gulf of Mexico, and the east coast of the United States. Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, 2018.

The 2018 hurricane season is shaping to be another big one with a greater than 60% chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline, according to a new forecast from top meteorologists. Researchers at Colorado State University estimate that seven hurricanes and 14 named storms will form during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season with the intensity of the season slightly above the average from recent decades.

Every year millions of Americans who live along the U.S. coastline prepare for the possibility of being impacted by straight-line winds, severe thunder storms, tornadoes, tropical storms, flooding and hurricanes in the region.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has announced the introduction of its newest feature, the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map, which became available at the start of the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Seasonin June.

An above-average hurricane season this year would follow devastation wrecked by a series of 12 named storms in 2017 including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. More than 100 people died in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, Florida and Texas as a result of major storms last year including  The events caused an estimated $200 billion in damage, according to figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Unusually warm waters in the western tropical Atlantic contributed to the forecast for an above-average season as hurricanes form more easily in warm conditions. Waters in other parts of the Atlantic remained cooler than average.

The forecast comes long before hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and projections will improve as summer approaches.







Florida Division of Emergency Management – State Emergency Response Team (SERT)

The Florida Division of Emergency Management plans for and responds to both natural and man-made disasters. These range from floods and hurricanes to incidents involving hazardous materials or nuclear power. The division prepares and implements a statewide Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, and routinely conducts extensive exercises to test state and county emergency response capabilities.

The division is the state’s liaison with federal and local agencies on emergencies of all kinds. Division staff members provide technical assistance to local governments as they prepare emergency plans and procedures. They also conduct emergency operations training for state and local governmental agencies.

After a disaster, the division conducts preliminary damage assessment surveys and advises the Governor on whether to declare an emergency and seek federal relief funds. The division maintains a primary Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Tallahassee. The EOC serves as the communications and command center for reporting emergencies and coordinating state response activities.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Disaster Preparedness

I was as external affairs field specialist and multilingual public affairs officer with the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency from 2005 to 2012. During that time I was deployed to more than 50 disasters from California to Florida to Massachusetts, and served as spokesperson on a number of disasters including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi and the aftermath of Hurricane Charlie in Southwest Florida. I’ve also served as media spokesperson for AT&T Wireless, Bell South, University of Miami, Miami-Dade Expressway Authority, and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) during the annual hurricane season.

I conducted daily media interviews with newspaper editors, online media, bloggers, public broadcasting and broadcast radio and television stations when I was deployed to a new disaster in the U.S. One of the typical questions from the media is why isn’t FEMA handing out money, water, food, medicine, blankets, clothes, etc., the day after a major hurricane, tropical storm or tornado strikes a community?

My response was “FEMA is not a first responder. The American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local churches and faith-based organizations are tasked with being the first relief agencies and/or non-profits on hand to help disaster survivors in the immediate days after a natural disaster. FEMA works closely with state and local emergency managers to assess the long-term needs of disaster survivors.

How does FEMA prepare and what happen when a disaster hits a local community?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency pre-stages emergency supplies throughout the county in advance of a major disaster, e.g., Cat 4 or 5 Hurricanes, major earthquake or major flooding that impacts an entire community, etc. The Federal Emergency Management Agency partners in the initial response phase but especially during the recovery phase of a disaster and is a guest of whatever state it’s in. FEMA is the lead agency in a disaster and works closely with state, county and local emergency managers and officials.

What do local authorities in Southeast and Southwest Florida mean?

Local authorities are emergency managers, law enforcement, and fire department officials in Southwest Florida with the Office of Emergency Management in Charlotte, Collier, Desoto, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota Counties. On the east side of the Everglades local authorities are with the Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties Office of Emergency Management. Other representatives include the City of Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, and whatever other local municipality is working with local emergency managers. Everyone needs to check ahead of time with your local authorities to determine what he or she needs to do in the immediate days after a disaster.

What is a Family Emergency Disaster Communication Plan?

More importantly, every individual has to prepare for any disaster whether its man-made, weather related, biological, chemical, etc., by developing a personal family emergency disaster communication plan that includes disaster emergency supplies for each member of your family, a minimum of 5 – 7 days. The emergency communication plan and disaster emergency supplies should also include the needs of your pets, children and elderly individuals who may be living with you at home or nearby.

What do I need to include in a Disaster Emergency Supplies Kit?

Don’t wait until there is a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning that may impact the residents of Southwest Florida, Southeast Florida or the Florida Keys to prepare. NOW is the time to put together your disaster emergency supplies kit that should include the following:

  • A gallon of drinking water per person per day for at least seven days.
  • Enough non-perishable food items, a manual can opener per person for at least five to seven days.
  • Two months of medication for your children, pets, and grandparents
  • Stock up on extra batteries, new flashlights, a NOAA weather radio, non-perishable foods, a manual can opener, candles, and an extra tank of propane gas for your barbecue grill.
  • Extra batteries already charged for all of your mobile devices.
  • All hazards NOAA Weather Radio,

Also, it would be a good idea to have an old-fashioned wired landline phone in your house that you can use just in case the electricity goes out. Remember – all those fancy cordless phones that do everything except make espresso – are no good to you if the electricity goes down for days or even weeks.

One more thing – if you are able to do so, purchase a large diesel powered or propane powered generator and have it installed in your home PRIOR to the start of the new hurricane season on June 1. Especially if you are some else in your household is dependent on oxygen, a respirator, or other device that needs to be connected to electricity 24 hours a day, seven-days-a-week. Unfortunately, FPL is the only option when it comes to electricity for most of us and time and time again they perform miserably after a major storm, never mind a tropical storm or hurricane.

The bottom line is – you and only you are responsible for the safety and well-being of your family before, during and after a disaster. Here are some useful websites to help you prepare and keep your family safe:

The following is a list of useful websites to help you prepare and keep your family safe during a disaster in the US.

Be Prepared. Have a Plan. Keep Your Family Safe.


Media Contact: 

Pete E Cento

Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Management, Public Affairs

Wild Cats Enterprises

Phoenix, Arizona 85044

Cellphone: 239.287.0805