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USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education)

Hurricane season: here we go again!

Hurricane season: here we go again!

An active hurricane season appears imminent, which could have major repercussions for the U.S. economy and the one in six Americans who live on the Eastern Seaboard or along the western Gulf of Mexico, predicts AccuWeather.com, State College, Pa.

For the 2006 hurricane season–which traditionally runs from June 1 through Nov. 30–chief forecaster Joe Bastardi and his team are saying that six tropical cyclones will make landfall in the U.S. Five of these are likely to be hurricanes, with three being major ones of Category 3 or greater.

“The 2006 season will be a creeping threat,” warns Bastardi. “Early in the season, the Texas Gulf Coast faces the highest likelihood of a hurricane strike, possibly putting Gulf energy production in the line of fire. [Then], through much of the rest of the season, the highest level of risk shifts to the Carolinas. From mid August into early October, the window is wide open for hurricane strikes to [track] northward to the more densely populated Northeast coast. At the very end of the season, southern Florida also faces significant hurricane risky.”

“There are few areas of the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico that will not be in the bull’s eye at some point this season,” notes Ken Reeves, AccuWeather’s director of Forecast Operations. “Ironically, though, the region that was hammered the hardest last year–the central and eastern Gulf Coast–has one of the lower probabilities of receiving another major hurricane strike in 2006. This is not to say that New Orleans has nothing to worry about. Because the city’s defenses have been so compromised by Hurricane Katrina, even a glancing blow from a hurricane elsewhere could spell trouble for the city.”

Following on the heels of 2005’s record-shattering hurricane season, 2006 will feature fewer storms, but still will be a season of above-average storm frequency. “There were 28 named storms last year, and we are expecting far fewer during this season. But keep in mind that it is not the number of storms that is significant, it is where they make landfall that sets the tone for the season,” cautions Reeves.

Last year, there were eight tropical cyclone landfalls in the U.S., including two separate strikes by Katrina as the storm crossed the Florida peninsula and then plowed into the central Gulf Coast. Four of these were major hurricanes–Category 3 or stronger–at one of their landfalls: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. This year, though, the Northeast needs to be on alert.

“Because it has been decades since the Northeast was hit by a major hurricane, some residents have become complacent regarding the threat of a hurricane,” says Bastardi. “It is for this reason that we have been warning of elevated danger from hurricanes in the Northeast since March, when we first identified [climate] patterns that could lead to such an occurrence this year or in the near future.”

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