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Forecasters Predict More Tempestuous Hurricane Season in 2007

Dec. 8, 2006 — With the official end of the unusually quiet 2006 hurricane season just eight days ago, Philip Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University said Friday not to expect the same in 2007.
However, the team said in a news release that it won't be as bad as 2005, which was the most destructive hurricane season on record.
For 2007, Klotzbach and Gray predict 14 named storms, with seven becoming hurricanes. They expect three to develop into major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or greater. The long-term average stands at 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
The quiet 2006 season resulted from El Nino conditions, Klotzbach and Gray said, indicating those conditions will likely dissipate by next summer. This will make for an above-average hurricane season, they believe
"However, this is an early-season prediction," Klotzbach said. "One of the important questions for the upcoming season is whether El Nino conditions will continue through 2007."
For 2007, Gray and Klotzbach expect continued warm tropical and North Atlantic sea-surface temperatures, which were prevalent in most years since 1995, coupled with neutral or weak La Nina conditions.
They said this was a recipe for greatly enhanced Atlantic-basin hurricane activity, indicating these same conditions occurred during the 1952, 1958, 1966 and 2003 hurricane seasons, all of which saw above-average hurricane activity. Additionally, Klotzbach said that seven of the eight seasons that followed an El Nino were active hurricane seasons.
A late-developing El Nino contributed to the calmer-than-normal 2006 season, Klotzbach said. No hurricanes hit the U.S. mainland in 2006, only the 11th such occurrence since 1945.
By contrast, 2005 saw 27 named storms, 12 hurricanes and seven intense hurricanes. Despite the fairly inactive 2006 season, Gray believes that the Atlantic basin remains in an active hurricane cycle.
"This active cycle is expected to continue for another decade or two, at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the quarter-century periods of 1970 to 1994 and 1901 to 1925," Gray said.
A St. John wag once said that the Virgin Islands has two seasons — hurricane season and waiting-for-hurricane season. Since it's now waiting-for-hurricane season, it's time to prepare for the next one that begins June 1.
"We have to continue to be ever-vigilant," said Cassandra Dunn, spokesperson for the V.I. Water and Power Authority.
Residents should use this time to prune trees to make sure they don't fall into power lines should a storm hit, she said. Additionally, she said, people should avoid planting bushes where they could grow into power lines. Another possibility, according to Dunn: Use the time to explore buying alternative-energy sources, such as solar.
Echoing Dunn's sentiments was Harold Baker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency. Residents should use the winter lull to get ready for next year's hurricane season, he said. People should check things like retaining walls, drainage areas and guts to make sure they're in shape for a hurricane.
Contractors should figure out what they'll do with their lumber should a storm strike, Baker said, "so it doesn't become a missile."
People should replace their stored water with fresh and check the expiration dates on items in their survival kits, he said. Baker also touched on VITEMA's tsunami preparations, saying he's pushing for a better warning system for the territory and is working on putting up evacuation-route signs.
While Gray and Klotzbach don't predict the probability of a hurricane hitting a Caribbean Island next year, they do for the U.S. mainland. They said there's a 64-percent chance that one will hit the U.S. coastline. The long-term average stands at 52 percent.
Gray stressed his belief that recent or projected Atlantic hurricane activity is not linked to human-induced global warming.
"Despite the global warming of the sea surface that has taken place over the last three decades, the global numbers of hurricanes and their intensity has not shown increases in recent years, except for the Atlantic," he said.
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