Separating Facts From Predictions

In this handout image supplied by the White House, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, welcome their sixth grandchild, Samuel David Cheney May 23, 2007 in Washington, DC. ( David Bohrer/White House via Getty Images ) David Bohrer/White House via Getty

With eight weeks to go before the Atlantic hurricane season even begins, the nation's lead storm forecaster is already concerned.

"What worries me a lot is years like this when a lot of people are saying near normal activity. I think people will tend to let their guard down," said Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center.

And that's just what the forecaster known for his hurricane predictions is saying, reports CBS News Correspondent Bobbi Harley. Friday, Colorado State University's Dr. Bill Gray and his forecast team predicted a typical season — ten named storms, six of which will become hurricanes and two of them will be major.

Atlantic Tropical Storm Names for 2001
Allison
Barry
Chantal
Dean
Erin
Felix
Gabrielle
Humberto
Iris
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Michelle
Noel
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

Source: National Hurricane Center
But even he admits — what he tries to do is risky business. "Nobody can predict when and where a storm will occur in any one year."

For people living at ground zero from June 1 to October 30, hurricane season is a time to expect the unexpected.

"We're seldom caught by surprise by a large hurricane, we see them coming. It's those small ones that pop up over the weekend," warned Chuck Lanza Director of the Miami-Dade County Office of Emergency Management.

Like the so-called no name storm last October that surprised everyone when it dumped up to twenty inches of rain on south Florida.

And that's Mayfield's point. "It just takes that one hurricane over your community to make for a bad year."

Like Galveston, Texas, in 1900, the Florida Keys in 1935 and the costliest U.S. hurricane ever: 1992's Andrew in Homestead, Fla. — all of which hit in seasons predicted to be less active than normal.

This year, forecasters say a warmer Atlantic Ocean would usually mean more hurricanes, but the wild card El Nino is back. In 1997, the weather pattern unexpectedly suppressed hurricane activity, throwing Dr. Gray's predictions to the wind.


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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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