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Experts forecast active 2009 hurricane season

By Staff | Apr 1, 2009

Stock up on extra batteries, batten down the hatches and start investigating impact-resistant building products if you live in nearby areas of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

The recently-released 2009 Hurricane Season forecast from the Weather Research Center indicates that the Gulf coast region, from Louisiana to Alabama, has a 70 percent chance this year of experiencing landfall of a tropical storm or hurricane.

That area, of course, includes Southwest Florida.

Dave Roberts, the City of Sanibel’s official weather consultant, reported on Tuesday that it may still be a little early to be making predictions for hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.

“The big joke I’m hearing is that hurricane season will be cut short this year due to the economy,” said Roberts, who noted that the traditional forecast from the National Hurricane Center in Miami comes out during the first week in May. “It’s still a very inexact science, if you can call it a science at all, to pinpoint where a storm will pop up.”

Roberts explained that in years past, weather experts make their predictions about hurricane season by monitoring water temperature, which can help feed or maintain severe weather events. However, more recent forecasts seem to rely on tracking actual weather patterns.

“The warmer the weather seems to get, the better the chances are that we’ll have an active summer season,” he added. “When it begins to get hot out and ocean temperatures start to increase, then we have all the ingredients necessary to support those kinds of storms.”

Last week, the Weather Research Center in Houston, Texas announced their predictions for the 2009 hurricane season.

“We expect at least seven named storms, with four of these tropical storms intensifying into hurricanes this season,” said Jill Hasling, president of the Weather Research Center. “We’re forecasting that the season will continually elevate with tropical storm activity and we’re predicting that August, September and October will be the most likely months for extremely active situations.”

According to Hasling, the Orbital Cyclone Strike Index (OCSI) forecast includes heavy activity for the Atlantic. OCSI was developed in 1984 to indicate which section of the U.S. coastline has the highest risk of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane.

The OCSI has a proven 88 percent accuracy rate. For 2009, the OCSI forecast includes:

Coastal Area

Louisiana to Alabama – 70%

West Coast Florida – 60%

Georgia to North Carolina – 50%

Mexico – 40%

Texas – 40%

East Coast Florida – 30%

East Coast of U.S. – 30%

Other 2009 predictors from the OCSI from the Weather Research Center include:

OCSI Forecasts

Number of Named Storms – 7

Number intensifying into Hurricanes – 4

Number of Hurricane Days – 7

Number of Tropical Storm Days – 47

U.S. Landfalls – 3

Category 3 or Higher Storms in the Atlantic – 50%

Founded in 1987, the non-profit Weather Research Center manages a worldwide forecasting operation and provides groundbreaking research to scientists around the world. Meteorologists provide tropical cyclone advisories worldwide, severe weather advisories, marine forecasts, long-range outlooks, environmental studies and forensic meteorology services.

Roberts also noted that weather forecasters have predicted an active hurricane season in 2009, with 11 named storms, six or seven hurricanes and two or three major storms. Bill Grey of Colorado State University, one of the world’s leading hurricane experts, has predicted an even gloomier forecast: 14 named storms, seven hurricanes with three major storms.

Then again, forecasting hurricanes is not an exact science.

For more information about The John C. Freeman Weather Museum at Weather Research Center and the full 2009 Hurricane Season Forecast, visit their Web site at www.WXResearch.org or call 713-529-3076.

(Executive Editor Jeff Lysiak contributed to this report.)