Batten Down the Hatches This Hurricane Season
If government predictions are correct, Gulf of Mexico producers
could be shutting in more rigs and shuttling more workers to safety
this hurricane season than last.
This year's Gulf Coast and Atlantic hurricane season will bring
more tropical storms, hurricanes and intense hurricanes than usual,
say scientists in the first hurricane outlook ever released by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the beginning of
the June-November season.
The outlook calls for increased chances of greater-than-average
hurricane activity and three or more intense storms. A normal
Atlantic hurricane season includes nine to 10 tropical storms, of
which five to six are hurricanes and two are classified as intense
"The intensified hurricane activity may be influenced in part by
a lingering La Ni¤a episode, which our scientists expect to
continue at its current strength through the hurricane season, and
which could help maintain conditions favoring increasing hurricane
activity," said D. James Baker, National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration administrator. La Ni¤a refers to cooler-than-average
sea-surface temperatures across the central and eastern tropical
Pacific Ocean, which historically have contributed to a greater
number of hurricanes in the Atlantic during a given season.
In June, all National Weather Service forecast offices will be
fully upgraded with advanced interactive computer systems, a
centerpiece of a $4.5 billion modernization program that has been a
priority of the Clinton Administration. The modernization also
includes new technologies such as Doppler radar, satellites, and a
state-of-the-art hurricane surveillance jet.
"The increased capabilities provided by these technologies
enable us to better forecast hurricane-related weather and
flooding, and get out more timely warnings that may save lives,"
said John J. Kelly Jr., National Weather Service director.
Last year, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center issued its
first-ever Atlantic hurricane outlook in early August to indicate
whether the remaining season would bring increased, lessened, or
normal activity. The scientists accurately predicted that there
would be an above-normal number of tropical storms and hurricanes
in the Atlantic between August and October, the busiest period of
the hurricane season. The 1998 Atlantic hurricane season brought 14
tropical cycles, including three major hurricanes. These storms
inflicted $7.3 billion in damages and 23 fatalities in the United
NOAA will update its current outlook in August.
Joe Fisher, Houston
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