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Expert forecasts above average hurricane season in 2006

Just days after the official close of the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, the first 2006 forecast has been released. To the surprise of no one it predicts an active season. The 2006 prediction does include some modestly good news, however.

"We foresee another very active Atlantic basin tropical cyclone season in 2006," states a report from a team including long-time forecasting guru William Gray of Colorado State University. "However, we do not expect to see as many landfalling major hurricanes in the United States as we have experienced in 2004 and 2005."  Gray’s prediction still indicates an above average Atlantic hurricane season for 2006, but less active than 2005.

In 2004 four devastating hurricanes criss-crossed Florida leaving $22 Billion in damages in their wake.  As a comparison, Hurricane Katrina’s catastrophic destruction in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida inflicted $38 million of damage alone in 2005.

In 2005, a record four major hurricanes ashore in the United States including two very serious hurricanes in Rita and Wilma. Gray has been gazing into the crystal ball since 1984 to divine future hurricane activity with remarkable accuracy. In today's statement, he said he is letting colleague Philip Klotzbach take over the lead roll in the prognostications.

The 2006 forecast calls for: 17 named tropical storms--an average season has 9.6; 9 hurricanes compared to the average of 5.9; and 5 major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph; average is 2.3.

Though these statistical predictions cannot portend when any of the storms will form or where they will go, Klotzbach, Gray and colleagues calculate an 81 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will hit the U.S. coast in 2006.

The current series of busy seasons is part of a long-term cycle that climatologists had predicted years ago. The Atlantic is in its 11th year of heightened activity. It is expected to "continue for the next decade or perhaps longer," said officials with the National Weather Service. The cycle typically involves two or more decades of lull and two or more decades of high activity.

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