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"Forecasters predict normal hurricane season"
(Source: Associated Press, 5/21/01) 

WASHINGTON (May 21, 2001 08:37 a.m. EDT) - As many as 11 tropical storms -
of which five to seven could become hurricanes - could threaten the
Atlantic and Gulf coasts this year, government forecasters said Monday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted what it
called a normal hurricane season this year but warned that doesn't mean
the danger is less. 

"Don't focus on the numbers, you need to be prepared," Max Mayfield,
director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said in an appearance
on The Early Show on CBS. 

"Have a plan, don't wait for the hurricane to come knocking on your door,"
he said. 

"Although we expect an average level of activity this season, that is no
cause to become complacent," acting NOAA Administrator Scott Gudes said.
"Residents in hurricane-prone areas can't afford to let their guard down.
Just one storm can dramatically change your life." 

A normal Atlantic hurricane season typically brings eight to 11 tropical
storms, of which five to seven reach hurricane strength, the forecasters
said. Such a season can include two or three major storms. 
Hurricane season for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and Caribbean lasts from
June 1 to Nov. 30. 

A leading independent forecaster, William M. Gray of Colorado
StateUniversity, has predicted 10 tropical storms, of which six will be
hurricanes, two of them intense. 

The "normal" forecast is based on the absence of such influences as the El
Niņo and La Niņa phenomena, in which unusual warming or cooling of the
tropical Pacific can affect the weather worldwide, officials said. 

Without those influences, the key climatic factors guiding this year's
expected activity are long-term patterns of tropical rainfall, air
pressure and temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, said
Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. 

"Forecasters will monitor these climate patterns, especially leading up to
the August-October peak period of the season," Kelly said. 

Mayfield stressed that hurricane-spawned disasters occur even in years
with normal or below-normal levels of activity. 

"If you go back and look in the history books you'll find that the
deadliest hurricane the United States ever had - the Great Galveston
Hurricane of 1900; the costliest hurricane ... Hurricane Andrew in '92,
and the most intense hurricane, the Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida
Keys in 1935 - all those hurricanes occurred in years of below average
numbers," Mayfield said. 

"We don't want people to be caught off guard by a land-falling storm
because the hurricane outlook calls for normal storm activity," Mayfield

The rapidly increasing population along the East and Gulf coasts means
many more people live in harm's way when tropical storms threaten, and the
vast majority have never experienced such a storm. 

"We do have a big challenge to convince the public of the dangers of
hurricanes," Kelly told a recent conference on hurricane preparedness. 

"We can change the impact of disasters. We, as a nation, can reduce the
loss of life ... by taking effective action now," said Joe Allbaugh,
director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

It is the job of government, the private sector and all Americans to learn
about the threats to their lives and homes and be prepared to take action
if needed, he said. 

Last year, there were 14 tropical storms, including eight hurricanes, but
most stayed well offshore. Despite improvements in recent years,
predicting three days ahead where a hurricane will strike the coast is
still subject to error by as much as 200 miles. That's half the error of
20 years ago, but it still poses serious problems for officials making
decisions about evacuation.  That forecast improvement has led to one
major change over recent decades. No longer is storm surge slamming ashore
the major killer. People are warned and, for the most part, evacuate from
the area.  The leading hurricane killer now is inland flooding, in places
where the storm's heavy rains raise water levels. 

>>From 1970 to 1999, more than 600 Americans were killed in hurricanes and
tropical storms. A study published by the American Meteorological Society
found that 82 percent of those deaths were drownings and more than half
were in inland counties and parishes. Storm surge accounted for only six

That study, by hurricane forecaster Edward N. Rappaport, also found that
early season storms were often among the deadliest. He attributed that to
weak steering winds early in the summer, causing the storms to move
slowly, thus prolonging their potential to cause flooding. 

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