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Bastardi: Early Tropical Storm Possible for Texas Coast

The upcoming hurricane season may produce fewer storms than the long-term average, but the Texas coast could be hit by an early tropical storm, according to Chief Long Range Forecaster Joe Bastardi.

"As we predicted in our early season forecast, we're anticipating a major reduction in the number of overall storms compared to last year," Bastardi said in an expanded hurricane season forecast released Thursday by "Levels may be as low as 2006 or perhaps lower. However, we expect three storms to deal at least tropical storm-force winds to the U.S. coast, two of which could be hurricanes, and perhaps one major hurricane.

"Despite the reduced number of storms, we still have the possibility of a major event that could stick out like a sore thumb."

While the number of hurricanes forecast by is fewer than normal, the area in which they could come ashore has expanded compared to previous years.

"Anywhere along the United States coast is susceptible to an impact, but the Texas coast early in the season and East Coast from the Carolinas northward during the heart of the season are areas that have us worried," Bastardi said.

Bastardi previously predicted that 13 named storms, including eight hurricanes, two of them intense (Category Three or greater) would form in the Atlantic Basin between June 1 and Nov. 30 (see NGI, March 23). A total of 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, five of them intense, formed during the 2008 season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an average Atlantic hurricane season has 11 named storms, which include two major hurricanes.

A weakening El Nino during the upcoming hurricane season, stronger easterly trade winds across northern Africa and cooler water temperatures in the deep tropical Atlantic are all likely to combine to hold down the number of tropical storms forming in the Atlantic Basin, Bastardi said.

Last month Andover, MA-based WSI Corp. said the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season will be less active than last year, with 11 named storms, including six hurricanes, two of them intense, predicted (see NGI, April 27). WSI had previously predicted 13 named storms, three of them intense (see NGI, Jan. 5), but it moderated its forecast based on the same trends cited by Bastardi.

The Colorado State University forecast team, which had previously estimated that there would be 14 named storms during the 2009 season (see NGI, Dec. 15, 2008), recently revised its forecast to 12 named storms, with at least half of them likely to become hurricanes, two of them intense (see NGI, April 13).

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