Government Forecasters Predict Rough Hurricane Season

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration yesterday forecast 13 to 17 storms for the 2007 Atlantic storm season, and said as many as 10 will become hurricanes. The government agency recommended that people in hurricane-prone regions begin preparing for the onslaught.

The forecast is in line with those of other experts, who predict a busy season after a quiet year in 2006. Last year, seasonal hurricane predictions proved to be too high when an unexpected El Nino rapidly developed and created a hostile environment for Atlantic storms to form and strengthen, the agency noted. When storms did develop, steering currents kept most of them over the open water and away from land.

"There is some uncertainty this year as to whether or not La Nina will form, and if it does how strong it will be," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, in a statement. "The Climate Prediction Center is indicating that La Nina could form in the next one to three months. If La Nina develops, storm activity will likely be in the upper end of the predicted range, or perhaps even higher depending on how strong La Nina becomes. Even if La Nina does not develop, the conditions associated with the ongoing active hurricane era still favor an above-normal season."

In record-breaking 2005, 28 tropical storms spawned 15 hurricanes, including Katrina. An average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with peak activity occurring August through October. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center will issue an updated seasonal forecast in August.
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