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Hurricane predictions set

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters are predicting an above average hurricane season this year.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | May 18, 2004


"Those percentages Gray calculated are correct - but the trouble is, how do you know this isn't the year for you?"

—Brian Jarvinen


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters are predicting an above average hurricane season this year.

In a statement released yesterday, NOAA officials said the season outlook for the Atlantic Ocean is 12 to 15 tropical storms, with six to eight systems becoming hurricanes, and two to four of those being major hurricanes.

Forecasters and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials are urging preparation for hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.

"Last year three tropical storms and three hurricanes affected the United States. Hurricane Isabel caused 17 deaths and more than $3 billion in damages. We cannot stop these storms, but we can take steps to limit our vulnerability. Awareness and preparedness for hurricanes, and even tropical storms, and knowing what to do to mitigate their devastating effects, are our best defense," said undersecretary for Homeland Security Michael Brown in the statement. FEMA is a division of the Homeland Security Department.

Some controversy has been added this year when well-known hurricane researcher William Gray calculated the landfall probabilities for coastal areas. Many cities were worried people wouldn't take hurricane preparations as seriously when they saw their areas only had a 2.6% chance of being hit by a hurricane this year.

"Those percentages Gray calculated are correct - but the trouble is, how do you know this isn't the year for you?" said Brian Jarvinen, a forecaster and storm search specialist for NOAA and the National Weather Service's (NWS) National Hurricane Center in Florida. "We tell people to be prepared every year."

With NOAA's hurricane outlook for this season falling right in line with Gray's, preparation is being pushed harder.

"Mitigation is very important," Jarvinen said. "Science has caught up with preventing damage, so if you can afford mitigation techniques for your home, you should do it. It not only gives you insurance breaks, but it also works."

Jody Hill, executive director of Florida Interfaith Networking in Disasters (FIND), said even with the controversy about Gray's probabilities, people do think that way.

"The reality is that all of us are concerned," she said. "After being battered numerous times in 1998, we were expecting it. And then it got quiet, so now we've been wondering if our number would come up soon."

Hill said other factors have her concerned about the impact of a hurricane as well. "Many of our rivers are up, and so are the aquifers," said Hill. "We don't have the cushion we did before. So even if a tropical storm hit, it could cause major problems. We have to expect something."


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