Experts Predict Active Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season AP/NOAA

Government forecasters warned of a busier-than-normal hurricane season Tuesday.

National Weather Service forecasters said they expect 13 to 17 tropical storms, with seven to 10 of them becoming hurricanes. CBS News reports they also believe that three to five of the storms will be Category 3 or higher.

An average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 named tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes, including two major ones, NOAA said.

The forecast follows that of two other leading storm experts in anticipating a busy season.

The likelihood of above-normal hurricane activity is 75 percent, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

"With expectations for an active season, it is critically important that people who live in East and Gulf coastal areas as well as the Caribbean be prepared," said Bill Proenza, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"Now is the time to update your hurricane plan, not when the storm is bearing down on you," Proenza said.

Like a scar on an old wound, waterlines still mark homes across New Orleans and serve as a reminder of what happens when hurricanes hit and levees fail, reports CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan. Hurricane-driven walls of water breached the city's protection system and devastated nearly 80 percent of New Orleans.

Now, 10 days away from the start of another hurricane season, Col. Richard Wagenaar doesn't mince words when he says the job patching the problem is still not complete.

"If Katrina came today, there would be significant risk to this metropolitan area," Wagenaar tells Sreenivasan.

Still, there has been progress. Since Katrina, the Army Corps of Engineers has worked around the clock to repair and restore 220 miles of levees at a price tag of approximately $2 billion. But the Corps admits that it may be 2011 before completion.

After the battering by storms Katrina and Rita in 2005 there were widespread fears last summer of another powerful storm striking, but the unexpected development of the El Nino climate phenomenon helped dampen conditions.

The El Nino has ended, however, leaving the potential for more tropical storms threatening the Gulf and East coasts.

El Nino is a warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean that occurs every few years. The warm water affects wind patterns that guide weather movement and its effects can be seen worldwide. In El Nino years, there tend to be fewer summer hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

The prediction for greater storm activity in the Atlantic is flipped on the other side of the country: Forecasters are predicting the Pacific hurricane season will likely be below average, with 12-to-16 tropical storms (the average is 15-16), with 6-to-9 becoming hurricanes (the average is 9), including 2-to-4 major hurricanes (instead of 4-to-5).

Earlier this month Philip Klotzbach, a research associate at Colorado State University, and Joe Bastardi, the chief hurricane forecaster for AccuWeather Inc., said they anticipate a more active storm cycle this year.

And, almost as if to underscore their comments, a subtropical storm formed off the southeast coast and became Andrea, the first named storm of the year, well before the June 1 official beginning of hurricane season.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30, but the strange season of 2005 ran over into late December, as well as using up all the planned alphabetical names, forcing storm watchers to switch to the Greek alphabet to continue naming storms.

Last year, there were just 10 named storms in the Atlantic, and none made landfall in the United States.

Klotzbach and his colleague at Colorado State, William Gray, predict a "very active" season this year with 17 named storms, including nine hurricanes.

Bastardi called for fewer storms but agreed 2007 would be more active than usual. He expects 13 or 14 named storms, six or seven of which will strike the U.S. coast.

Bastardi said the Texas Gulf coast is twice as likely to be hit as in an average year and Florida appears four times as likely.

Katrina easily became the costliest hurricane in U.S. history with damage estimated by the National Hurricane Center at more than $80 billion. Indeed, of the 30 costliest hurricanes in this country's history, four occurred in 2005.

Katrina displaced 1992's Andrew, at more than $48 billion, as the top storm, while other 2005 storms ranked are Wilma, No. 3, at $21 billion; Rita in 9th place with damage of nearly $12 billion and, ranked 30th, Dennis at $2 billion.

With a death toll topping 1,500, Katrina is also the third-deadliest in U.S. history, following the 1900 hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, killing 8,000 to 12,000 people, and a 1928 storm that claimed at least 2,500 lives in Florida.
  • Sean Alfano

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