- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

The National Hurricane Center in Miami yesterday released a revised forecast that offers little relief for coastal states, where many residents are still recovering from last season’s barrage of storms.

Officials predict three or four major hurricanes to develop through October. The earlier forecast was for six hurricanes of a Category 3 or higher. On the Saffir-Simpson scale, that means sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

The forecast now calls for nine smaller hurricanes, down from 10. The expected number of named tropical storms has been reduced from 16 to between 12 and 15.

“While the season began relatively calm compared to last year, this does not mean we are off the hook. In fact, the level of activity is typical for the beginning of the season,” said Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

NOAA officials say the season likely will be more active than normal, but will not be a record-breaker like last year. The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season ended with 28 tropical storms and 15 hurricanes, seven of which developed into major hurricanes.

Meteorologist Gerry Bell said this season will be milder for several reasons, including cooler surface water temperatures.

“We do not make landfall forecasts, but we will likely average two to three strikes in the U.S.,” he said.

R. David Paulison, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said coastal residents should be prepared even with the revised forecast.

“It’s not a time for complacency. It only takes one hurricane to give you a really bad day,” Mr. Paulison said. “FEMA is not letting its guard down and we will continue our preparations. Coastal communities should also not let their guard down.”

Asked at a press conference whether FEMA is better prepared than last year, Mr. Paulison replied, “Light-years ahead.”

The hurricane research team at Colorado State University issued a revised forecast last week, reducing the number of hurricanes to seven from the nine it predicted in May. Three of those hurricanes, rather than five earlier forecast, are predicted to reach at least Category 3 strength.

Although NOAA does not make predictions on where a storm may strike, the Colorado team says the East Coast is at an increased risk of a major storm this year.

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