14 named storms predicted

Published 7:28 pm Wednesday, June 9, 2004

By By Lindsey Sherrill
Fourteen named storms could bear down on the Gulf Coast this summer, and, according to historical patterns, south Alabama is overdue for a large hurricane.
Dr. William Gray, a forecaster at Colorado State University and hurricane expert, has predicted 14 storms for this year with eight becoming hurricanes, and three of those intense hurricanes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also predicts an above average season with 12-15 storms.
There is a 40 percent chance this season of an intense hurricane making landfall anywhere between the Florida panhandle and Brownsville, Texas, according to NOAA. This is 10 percent higher than the average.
The predictions for this season are based on long term studies of climatology, Atlantic-Caribbean sea patterns and historical cycles of hurricane activity.
Hurricane cycles follow a two to three decade pattern. Records show a pattern of severe storms devastating this area between 1711 and 1736, and the 1850s and 60s. In the late 19th century, strong period for hurricanes, intense storms made landfall in 1893 (Mobile), 1900 (Galveston) and1901 (between Mobile and Pensacola). The 1900 Galveston hurricane caused severe damage as far east as Pensacola, and is still considered one of the worst hurricanes of all time. It killed more than 8,000 people, 6,000 in Galveston alone.
The current cycle began in 1995 when hurricanes Erin and Opal hit the Mobile-Pensacola area. It continued through the late 90s with Danny (1997), Georges (1998) and Isidore, Hanna and Lili (2002). This cycle is expected to last until approximately 2010.
These hurricane cycles are connected to cycles of Atlantic salinity and surface temperatures, WPMI NBC 15 forecasters said. Drops in surface pressure over the Atlantic are a third factor in the amount of hurricane activity, said Phillip Klotzbach, a research scientist at Colorado State.
Current temperature, pressure and salinity trends match those of the 1950s and 60s, a high period for hurricanes.
There are exceptions. Major hurricanes have hit in low-activity decades such as the 1906 and 1911 Pensacola Hurricanes, 1979's Hurricane Frederick and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Based on historical trends, scientists estimate that a Category 1 hurricane will come near the area every 10 years. The span is every 21 years for a Category 2 hurricane, 33 years for a Category 3, 62 years for a Category 4 and 140 years for a Category 5 hurricane.
According to these estimates, the south Alabama area is more than 100 years overdue for a Category 4 or 5 storm.
As forecasters make predictions for the season, which runs June 1 through Nov. 30, it is important to prepared. Information on preparation and safety can be found by reading the Atmore Advance "Be Prepared" Guide in today's edition and by visiting NOAA at www.noaa.gov, the National Weather Service at www.nmws.noaa.gov, the National Hurricane Center at www.nhc.noaa.org.-

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