With more than 55 million people living in coastal communities, the nation must learn from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons and prepare now for what could be a worse 2006 season than what happened in 2005, a leading hurricane expert told emergency officials.
Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said that officials must plan for the worst.
“We could say, the 2006 hurricane season can’t be worse than last year, but I’m here to convince you it can,” Mayfield said. “All it takes is for one major storm to hit one community.”
He stressed that the most vulnerable people during the next hurricane season will be the 100,000 victims of previous hurricanes still living in temporary housing.
Mayfield was speaking to federal, state and emergency officials in Orlando, Fla. attending the National Hurricane Conference.
He said officials and citizens must confront hurricane fatigue and motivate residents still hurting from previous storms to plan in advance where to seek safe shelter. He pointed to Miami and other hurricane-prone areas where there are still blue tarps on roofs.
According to Mayfield, the 2005 hurricane season broke a number of storm-related records including: the first time there were four Category Five hurricanes in one season; the first time there were seven major hurricanes in one year; the most monetary damages; and the most deaths.
Mayfield cautioned that enough has not been mentioned about the destruction and deaths caused by the tornadoes accompanying the hurricanes. He said that it isn’t the hurricanes that account for the deaths; it’s the actions taken by victims after the hurricane has passed by.
No perfect forecast
“There is no such thing as a perfect forecast,” Mayfield explained. “There is a large envelope of water which can affect a wide area. Models only deal with over-topping.”
Mayfield said it is impossible to draw a “line in the sand” on wind versus water.
“It’s like blowing on a bowl of soup,” he explained. “If you blow on the soup and it slops over onto the table, is the stain due to wind or surge?”
Gray affirms his predictions
Colorado State University meteorologist Professor William Gray affiremd predictions that the 2006 hurricane season will maintain the precedents set in previous hurricane seasons. He has predicted there will be 17 named storms in 2006.
Gray, working with Bill Klotzbach, also said there is an 81 percent probability that a major category three, four or five hurricane will make landfall somewhere on the U.S. coastline. The average probability during the last century has been 52 percent.
The probability of such a hurricane hitting the U.S. East Coast, including Pensacola, is 64 percent, while the average during the last century has been 31 percent.
The probability of a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, is 47 percent; the average during the last century was 30 percent.
The team of experts has also predicted an “above average” possibility of a major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.
Klotzbach showed statistics estimating 2006 will have about nine hurricanes (average is 5.9); 17 named storms (average is 9.6), 85 named storm days (average is 49.1); 45 hurricane days (average is 24.5); 5 intense (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and 13 intense hurricane days (average is 5.0).
The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 55 percent above average. The scientists also expect the Atlantic basin Net Tropical Cyclone activity in 2006 to be about 195 percent of the average.
The April forecast is based on a newly devised extended range statistical forecast procedure which utilizes 52 years of past global reanalysis data. Analog predictors are also utilized.
“We have maintained our forecast from our early December prediction as the Atlantic Ocean, although cooling slightly with respect to climatology, remains anomalously warm and central and eastern tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures anomalies have continued to cool,” Klotzbach said. “Currently, weak La Niña conditions are observed. We expect either neutral or weak La Niña conditions to be present during the upcoming hurricane season.”
Gray commented about the effects of global warming, debunking conclusions made by other experts indicating that the increased number of recent hurricanes are due to global warming. He explained at length that global warming and cooling run in cycles. He pointed outy that warming and cooling trends have been constant for centuries and alternate during 11 to 20 year periods.
He predicted that the current warming trend will continue for another three to five years, and then the Earth will again begin to cool.
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