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Five to seven hurricanes expected in 2001

If you live along the Atlantic or Gulf Coast, you definitely don't want Allison, Barry, or Chantel knocking at your door. That's because those are the names of the first three tropical storms for 2001.

2001 tropical storm names

Allison
Berry
Chantel
Dean
Erin
Felix
Gabrielle
Humberto
Iris
Jerry
Karen
Lorenzo
Michelle
Noel
Olga
Pablo
Rebekah
Sebastien
Tanya
Van
Wendy

Experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting a busy hurricane season in 2001, which could produce at least 12 tropical storms, with seven expected to reach hurricane strength, and another three projected to be "intense," or characterized by winds of 110 mph or more. Storms with sustained winds greater than 100 miles per hour are considered category 3 hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. The hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, with August through October usually peak season.

Keep guard up

"Although we expect an average level of activity this season, that is no cause to become complacent," says Scott Gudes, NOAA's acting administrator. "With the possibility of five to seven hurricanes, residents in hurricane-prone areas can't afford to let their guard down. Just one storm can dramatically change your life."

For example, in 1992, a year of below-normal hurricane activity, Hurricane Andrew, the costliest hurricane on record, caused more than $25 billion in damage, devastating regions of south Florida, leaving 43 dead in its wake.

Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, says that "in 1999 [another below-average year for hurricanes], Hurricane Floyd brought record flooding to the East Coast. Fifty of the 56 deaths during Hurricane Floyd were a direct result of inland flooding. That kind of threat remains with each passing storm. Storm surges from hurricanes bring the greatest potential for loss of life," says Mayfield.

The NOAA prediction correlates with prognostications from noted hurricane expert Dr. William Gray, a Colorado State University professor, who predicts that seven hurricanes will form in the Atlantic in 2001, three of which will become intense hurricanes with sustained winds exceeding 110 mph. Gray, predicts 12 named storms will make waves in 2001.

Fewer than 2000?

Should the predictions hold true, that would mean fewer tropical storms than in 2000, when 14 tropical storms formed in the Atlantic. Eight of those reached hurricane strength, and three, Alberto, Isaac, and Keith, were categorized as major hurricanes.

Hurricane experts base their average 2001 tropical storm predictions on the lack of strong influences such as El Niño and La Niña, in which unusual warming or cooling of the Pacific Ocean can affect the weather worldwide.

Storm surges from hurricanes bring the greatest potential for loss of life.

Officials are concerned that the number of people living in vulnerable coastal areas has swelled, leaving millions along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts in the way of potentially devastating hurricanes. At the same time, NOAA and United States Air Force Reserve personnel will again use hurricane hunter/research aircraft to fly directly into tropical storms to provide data to help refine hurricane forecasts.

"Preventing the loss of life, and minimizing the damage to property from hurricanes, is a responsibility that is shared by all," says Joe M. Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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