But already two leading storm experts have
called for a busy hurricane season.
The official government forecast is due out
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
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.
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.
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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 just over
$48 billion, as the top storm, while other 2005 storms ranked are
Wilma, No. 3, at $21 billion; Rita in ninth place, with damage of
nearly $12 billion; and, ranked 30th, Dennis at $2 billion.
And with a death toll topping 1,500, Katrina is
also the third-deadliest in U.S. history, following the 1900
hurricane that hit Galveston, killing 8,000 to 12,000 people, and a
1928 storm that claimed at least 2,500 lives in Florida.
from file received from AP
Digital: by Randolph E. Schmid, AP science writer]