As many as seven storms -- of an expected 13-14 named storms -- could strike the U.S. coast during the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, AccuWeather.com said Tuesday. Three or more of the storms are likely to be Category 3 or greater on the Saffir/Simpson scale, the forecaster said Tuesday.

According to AccuWeather Chief Hurricane Forecaster Joe Bastardi, this season's hurricanes and tropical storms will pose a "far greater threat to lives and property" than the storms seen during last year's mild season. Bastardi said six or seven storms will strike the U.S. coast. "This includes the possibility of multiple strikes by the same storm, such as the way Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, both extreme examples, struck Florida before later striking the U.S. Gulf Coast," AccuWeather said.

"We will not get anywhere near the amount of storms that we did in 2005, but it is the intensity of the storms we do get that will be of major concern," said Ken Reeves, AccuWeather director of forecast operations.

The majority of landfalls are projected to be along the Gulf and southeast Atlantic coasts from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Cape Hatteras, NC, with the center of the bullseye on Florida. The Texas coast and the Mid-Atlantic region also are at above-average risk, Bastardi said at an AccuWeather conference in Houston Tuesday.

"The highest area of risk has swung southwest from the Atlantic to Florida and the eastern and central Gulf Coast regions," Bastardi said. "In past years that exhibited the same climatological patterns we expect this season, these areas were the main target of Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms.

"Some of those years also saw a storm break out of the pack and head up the East Coast, and we would not be surprised to see this scenario play out this year as well. Any storm that strikes north of Hatteras has increased potential to be a major one."

Factors contributing to this year's hurricane season include:

Many of the climatological patterns seen currently or projected for this hurricane season are similar to those seen from the 1930s to the 1950s, a period marked by frenzied hurricane activity, AccuWeather said. Bastardi said none of his "analog" years -- past years that exhibited characteristics similar to this year -- suggest that there will be a New England hurricane this year.

At the conference Bastardi displayed charts tracking the hurricanes that occurred during the period. Throughout the 1930s storms tended to be evenly distributed in the Gulf of Mexico. However, during the 1940s storms mostly centered on or around Florida. During the 1950s storms consistently tracked up the Eastern Seaboard.

"The heightened threat we foresee for Florida and the eastern Gulf Coast could have significant implications for the areas still recovering from the devastation wrought by the hurricanes off 2004 and 2005," said Ken Reeves. "Those living farther up the East Coast should by no means let down their guard. While the threat there is lower than last year, 'less risk' does not mean 'no risk.'"

Another forecaster, London-based Tropical Storm Risk (TSR), last week issued an updated forecast for the Atlantic hurricane season. "Based on current and projected climate signals, Atlantic basin and U.S. landfalling tropical cyclone activity are forecast to be about 65% above the 1950-2006 norm in 2007," TSR said. "There is a high (about 84%) likelihood that activity will be in the top one-third of years historically."

Last month the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team said the Atlantic basin will likely experience a very active hurricane season in 2007 (see Daily GPI, April 4). The team forecasted 17 named storms forming in the Atlantic between June 1 and Nov. 30 with nine of these storms expected to become hurricanes and five of these "intense" or greater (Category 3 or greater). The team's next forecast will be issued May 31. The final season forecast is due Aug. 3. And there also will be monthly forecasts Aug. 3, Sept. 4 and Oct. 2.

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