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Hurricane season starts; Some cities overdue

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The hurricane season officially begins Wednesday, and it apparently won't be an easy one for forecasters. But one expert said typically hurricane-free cities may be overdue for a major storm.

This year, the National Hurricane Center is expecting the storm season to be busier than usual: up to 18 named tropical storms, with three to six of them major hurricanes.

Last year was the third-most active season on record, with 19 named storms, 12 of which became hurricanes. But only one gave the U.S. any problems.

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The Weather Channel's Rick Knabb, a hurricane expert, reported that five U.S. cities are long overdue for hurricanes and are just as vulnerable as cities in the South: Honolulu; New York; San Diego; Savannah, Ga.; and Tampa, Fla.

Below are summaries of those cities' histories with hurricanes, listed in order of the most recent storms:

  • Tampa
    A hurricane estimated to have the strength of a Category 2 storm damaged parts of the Tampa Bay area in 1921, Knabb reports. The bay surged by about 10 feet because of the storm.
  • Savannah
    While hurricanes came ashore and near the city in 1911, 1940, 1947 and 1979, the last major one to hit it was in 1893, killing between 1,000 and 2,000 people, Knabb reports.
  • New York
    The area of the city between the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn and John F. Kennedy International Airport was slammed by a Category 1 storm in August 1893, Knabb reports. If a similarly sized storm went further west than the eastern edges of the city, Knabb estimates the waters of New York Harbor would surge by about 30 feet.
  • San Diego
    The sole hurricane found to have hit California happened on Oct. 2, 1858, when powerful winds damaged large swaths of property, Knabb reports.
  • Honolulu
    Hawaii's capital hasn't had any recorded hits by a hurricane, but Knabb reports it's had several close calls, most recently by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, which struck Kauai, about 100 miles west of the capital.

This year, both the El Nino and La Nina effects are relatively quiet, making forecasting harder. They are warming and cooling trends that can either rev up hurricanes or suppress them.

Both of them are expected to be neutral this year. That could make it more difficult to say how bad the 2011 hurricane season will be.

The last time temperatures were neutral was 2005, when hurricanes Katrina and Rita slammed into the Gulf Coast.

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