Monday, May 22, 2006

Expect More Hurricanes This Year

Hurricane season begins in less than two weeks, and the NOAA has its predictions ready. We should expect another above-average hurricane season. It is unlikely to reach last year's proportions, but you never know what will happen.

Although hurricane activity this year is not expected to reach last year's record level, it is predicted to be greater than the 40-year average, said retired Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., the NOAA administrator. The hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

"For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," Lautenbacher said. "Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high," he said.

On average, he said, the hurricane season produces 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, two of them major ones. But in 2005, there were a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these were considered "major," and a record four of them hit the United States.

The current active cycle is expected to last for at least another decade. The worst impact could again be along the Gulf Coast since many people are still living in FEMA trailers after being relocated in the wake of Katrina. The coastal marshes of Louisiana and southern Mississippi and Alabama are also probably ill-prepared for another beating. Each marsh faces unrelenting pressure from two directions - human development and natural erosion. Hurricanes just make the situation worse.