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Fewer hurricanes expected this year

Forecasters focus on Mid-Atlantic destinations for hurricanes, less Carribbean damage.

BY VICKI DESORMIER | ORLANDO, FL | March 26, 2009

The 2009 hurricane season doesn’t get underway for another two months, but the early prognosticators are already putting out the word on how they believe the storms will play out.

Accu-Weather’s chief long range and hurricane forecaster Joe Bastardi said he believes there will be fewer named storms this year than in 2008, though eight of those storms will become hurricanes – the same number as last year.

Of those eight, only two will become major storms, three fewer than last year.  Half of the storms that form this year will make landfall in the United States and only one will be a major storm.

Bastardi said the weak La Niña in the Pacific will dissipate. That, coupled with high pressure in the eastern Atlantic will produce stronger than average easterly trade winds across North Africa, which will favor the formation of storms off the coast of that continent in the middle and later parts of the season.

This year in part of a regular multi-year pattern, apart from global climate change, water temperatures in the Atlantic are expected to be higher than average which will raise the chance of a major storm hitting the east coast, probably north of the Carolinas.

That’s potentially good news for the Caribbean which was hammered by storms last season and Florida and the Gulf region which has suffered many storms in the last few years.

The 2008 hurricane season was one of the costliest in terms of both structural and human damage. The financial impact in the United States of last year’s storms was estimated at $41 million in damage, primarily from Tropical Storm Fay, which made landfall four times in Florida and Hurricane Ike, which caused devastation in Galveston Island, Texas.

Four consecutive storms, Tropical Storm Fay and hurricanes Gustav, Hanna and Ike, ravaged Haiti, leaving more than 800 people dead.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a year like last year,” Bastardi said. He emphasized however, that people should not let their guard down.

Federal assistance to assist with clean up from Tropical Storm Fay is wrapping up. In the aftermath of the storm that caused major damage in 27 counties, 19,251 people registered for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and other federal programs. The Small Business Administration approved more than $9.5 million in low-interest disaster home loans and $3.7 million in loans for businesses to re-build.

Home inspections have been completed on all the homes that were damaged by the flooding across the state.

Damage from Hurricane Ike was $28 billion in the U.S. alone. Another $4 billion in damage was reported in Haiti and other locations throughout the Caribbean.

In Galveston, where almost nothing was left standing on the barrier island city, most residents have not begun to return home, and half the city’s businesses are still closed. The economic downturn has hit the city hard and some say it will be difficult to start rebuilding and repairing the  $1.4 billion in damage to its infrastructure.


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