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Hurricane Season begins Wednesday

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The North Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday, June 1

By Mitch Traphagen

RUSKIN - The North Atlantic hurricane season begins Wednesday, June 1 and lasts through November 30. Nearly 37 million people, roughly 12 percent of the U.S. population, live along the coastal portions of states most threatened by hurricanes, stretching from North Carolina to Texas.

Phillip Klotzbach and William Gray of the Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science are predicting an active season with 16 named storms, markedly higher than the average of 9.6 storms per season. That number, however, is down by one storm from their initial 2011 forecast, made last December. Klotzbach and Gray are forecasting a total of nine hurricanes, with five major hurricanes. The forecast also states a 72 percent chance of a land-falling hurricane along the

U.S. coastline, up from an average of 52 percent over the past century. They state that the probability of a hurricane striking the Florida peninsula is 48 percent, up from a season average of 31 percent.

Overall, Klotzbach and Gray estimate the probability of a major hurricane striking the U.S. coastline is 140 percent of normal, and the generalized hurricane activity to be 175 percent of normal this year. In other words, they expect a very active season.

Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their own outlook for the 2011 season, which also predicts above-normal hurricane activity. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, is predicting between 12 and 18 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes.

Last year was one of the most active hurricane seasons on record with 19 named storms and 5 major hurricanes. No hurricanes made landfall along the U.S. coast and the bulk of the damage occurred outside of the United States, leaving most coastal Americans with the impression of a quiet season.

“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, PhD, Under Secretary of Commerce and NOAA administrator. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”

NOAA’s long-range forecast does not predict where hurricanes will make landfall, citing landfalls as dictated by weather systems cannot be predicted weeks or months in advance.

“The tornadoes that devastated the South and the large amount of flooding we’ve seen this spring should serve as a reminder that disasters can happen anytime and anywhere,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to get your plan together for what you and your family would do if disaster strikes. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more. And if you’re a small business owner, visit www.ready.gov/business to ensure that your business is prepared for a disaster.”

The National Hurricane Center in Miami and the local National Weather Service office in Ruskin are the primary points of information for Tampa Bay area residents during the season. All area television stations and news websites will relay NHC and NWS information as necessary. Florida leads the nation in hurricane landfalls with 113 since 1851, including 37 major hurricanes.

Arlene will be the first named storm of 2011. NOAA began naming hurricanes in 1950, becoming aware that short, distinctive names are more effective and less prone to error in communications than previous latitude and longitude identification measures. Once the sole domain of the NHC, storm names are now maintained and updated by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. Storm names cycle every six years, with the exception of deadly storms for which the names are retired. The 2011 season, therefore, is using names from the 2005 season, with the exception of the names Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma. The 2005 season set a record for the number of names retired.

The National Hurricane Center has declared this week as Hurricane Preparedness Week. The website www.hurricanes.gov/prepare contains information about how hurricanes form and are forecasted, and about how to prepare your home and family for the coming season.

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