Storm season this year worse than in 1995

November 25, 1996|By ORLANDO SENTINEL

After 1995's near-record hurricane season, experts figured that 1996 couldn't be as bad. But it was worse, killing more people and spawning stronger storms.

This year, hurricanes have caused $4.1 billion in damage in the United States alone and killed 147 people in the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean islands, according to preliminary estimates from the National Hurricane Center.

And with this year's season set to draw to a close Saturday, experts are already looking ahead with apprehension to next year. They are expecting more storms, stronger hurricanes, more damage and even more deaths.

"Just get used to it, I guess," said University of Miami meteorology professor Dean Churchill.

In 1996, there were six major hurricanes, those with winds more than 110 mph. The year ranked fourth in that category in the 110 years the hurricane center has been keeping records.

The average is two major hurricanes a year; in 1995 there were five.

This year, with 13 named tropical storms and hurricanes, ranked ninth. With nine hurricanes, 1996 ranked as the eighth-worst on record.

An average year has five hurricanes, major and minor.

In the past two years, 11 major hurricanes formed -- as many as in the previous nine years combined.

A disturbing sign to experts is that 1996 saw so many hurricanes despite the existence of two major atmospheric conditions that usually hamper storm development. Upper-level winds around the equator were coming from the wrong direction, and western Africa, where the storms develop as rain showers, was unusually dry.

Next year those conditions may not exist, leading Colorado State University professor William Gray to expect a busy storm season in 1997.

Pub Date: 11/25/96

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