We’ve been in active period for 13 years, and we’ll be in it for another 15-20 years
Dr. Bill Gray
The new hurricane forecast will be ready later this week, but one announced earlier in December already suggests it could a busy season in the Atlantic.
Dr. Bill Gray, who leads a team of scientists at Colorado State University, has already predicted that 13 tropical storms will hit the region and seven of those will become hurricanes with winds of around 111 miles an hour.
“We don’t think that number is going to drop,” Gray said, speaking here from the U.S. National Hurricane Conference.
A La Nina has been cooling waters in the eastern Pacific and that increases the chance of hurricanes in the Atlantic. On the other of the Atlantic, off the Iberian and African coasts, sea surface temperatures are very warm, conditions similar to 1995 and 2005, both busy seasons.
Gray is not blaming global warming for the surge in storms which has affected the North American coastlines for many years. Instead, he said, it is a natural occurrence.
“We’ve been in active period for 13 years, and we’ll be in it for another 15-20 years – but we don’t know,” he said.
And the damage, he said, will continue to be greater with so much human activity along the coastlines.
“We have many more people living along the coasts,” he said.
Relief organizations are still coping with 2005, which brought hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Scott Sundberg, director of communications for Mennonite Disaster Service, said his organization has done a lot since Katrina, including adding more training staff and teams needed to enter an area to clean-up and rebuild.
Sundberg said his organization was ready in 2006 and 2007 when nothing much materialized in the region. But now, he said, they’re still ready in case a major hurricane strikes.
“We feel in our bones it’s going to happen,” he said.
And since Katrina, Sundberg said Mennonite Disaster Service has added to its donor list and bolstered its response capabilities with items such as more vehicles to help with its response efforts.
“Katrina was a catalyst,” he said. “It was a watershed in many ways.”
John Robinson, at Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, said Katrina taught his organization a lot about responding to a storm of that magnitude. “Many of the practices and procedures we’ve put in place since Katrina have enabled us to be more prepared,” he said.