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Expert forecasts fewer hurricanes in 2002, warns against complacency

The chance of a major hurricane hitting the United States this year has been downgraded by a noted hurricane expert.

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Dr. William Gray of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Colorado State University (CSU) has twice lowered his hurricane forecast since first releasing his predictions in December 2001. He now predicts eight named storms in 2002, down from the 13 storms he originally forecast. The eight named storms include three hurricanes and one major hurricane with winds exceeding 110 mph for more than a minute. The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes, and 2.3 major hurricanes per year.

2002 tropical storm names  


Arthur
Bertha
Cristobal
Dolly
Edouard
Fay
Gustav
Hanna
Isidore
Jospehine
Kyle
Lili
Marco
Nana
Omar
Paloma
Rene
Sally
Teddy
Vicky
Wilfred

Although the number of storms is expected to decrease from 2001 levels, Gray and his team at CSU warn that coastal residents cannot become complacent. "This does not mean there will not be significant United States and Caribbean hurricane-spawned destruction," says Gray. "For example, 1992's Hurricane Andrew was the only major storm in a very inactive year, but it came ashore in south Florida and Louisiana and caused extensive damage.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year. Gray attributes this season's hurricane-inhibiting conditions to a cooling of the Atlantic basin sea surface temperature, an increase in Atlantic sea surface pressure, and a strengthening of tropical Atlantic easterly trade winds.

Gray, who has been forecasting hurricanes for 19 years, says that Americans recently have been spared the brunt of Atlantic hurricanes. In the past seven years the United States has seen 94 named storms, 58 hurricanes, and 27 major hurricanes go by with only three of the 27 (or one in nine) major hurricanes (Bret, Fran, and Opal) crossing the U.S. coastline. Based on historical averages, one in three major hurricanes make landfall in the U.S.

"We cannot expect this luck to continue indefinitely."

We cannot expect this luck to continue indefinitely," says Gray. "People living along the southeastern U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean basin must remain alert and prepared. With exploding growth in costal populations and property values, we must be prepared for levels of hurricane damage many, many times greater than has occurred in the past three decades."

1992's Hurricane Andrew was the costliest hurricane in U.S. history, causing $15.5 billion in insured losses.

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