Hurricane in Gulf 14% More Likely than Average in '98
The Gulf Coast from Brownsville, TX, to Spring Hill, FL, has
been hit by 34 intense hurricanes this century, and there's a high
probability one could make an unwelcome visit in 1998.
In his first look at hurricane landfall probabilities, esteemed
hurricane forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University said
the Gulf Coast region is 14% more likely to suffer through an
intense hurricane (category 3, 4, or 5) and 16% more likely to be
hit by a lower level cyclone this year than the average landfall
probability over the past 98 years.
Florida and the East Coast are 44% more likely to get whacked by
a big one this year than the 98-year average, Gray said. South
Florida has the highest probability of landfalling intense
hurricanes, according to the report. The U.S. coast from
Springhill, FL, to Eastport, ME, has been hit 38 times by category
3-5 hurricanes so far this century. The landfalls have covered only
about half the overall coastline, but sustained gale force winds
typically extend up to 300 miles on either side of the landfall
location. To obtain probability estimates for gale force winds
occurring at coastal locations this year, the probabilities for
hurricane landfalls should be multiplied by a factor of 3-5,
according to CSU's Department of Atmospheric Science.
In an earlier forecast, Gray said he expected this year's
Atlantic hurricane activity to be "appreciably more than 1997 but
less than the unusually active 1995 and 1996 seasons. Still, 1998
should be significantly more active than the average of the
generally suppressed hurricane seasons during the last 25 years and
especially in comparison to the particularly quiet seasons of
1991-1994." Predicted for this year's season are 10 named storms,
50 storm days, six hurricanes, 25 hurricane days, two intense
hurricanes, four intense hurricane days and a hurricane destruction
potential of 70.
A named storm is a hurricane or tropical storm. A hurricane is a
tropical cyclone with sustained low-level winds of 74 miles per
hour or greater. A hurricane day is a measure of hurricane
activity, one unit of which occurs as four six-hour periods during
which a tropical cyclone is observed or estimated to have hurricane
intensity winds. An intense hurricane reaches a sustained low-level
wind of at least 111 miles per hour at some point in its lifetime.
This constitutes a "category 3" or "major" hurricane. An intense
hurricane day is four six-hour periods during which a hurricane has
category 3 intensity or higher. Hurricane destruction potential is
a measure of a hurricane's potential for wind and storm surge
destruction defined as the sum of the square of a hurricane's
maximum wind speed for each six-hour period of its existence.
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