Outlook for hurricane season is softened


FORT LAUDERDALE,Fla. -- Hurricane prognosticators William Gray and Philip Klotzbach are calling for a slightly calmer season than initially forecast, with 15 named storms including seven hurricanes, three intense.

Gray's forecast team at Colorado State University previously predicted 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five intense. He said yesterday that the forecast was reduced as a result of "an erosion" of atmospheric factors, such as slightly cooler than expected temperatures in the Atlantic.

The new prediction still calls for a considerably busier year than normal. The average season sees 10 named storms, including six hurricanes, two intense.

August and September, in particular, should be more active than normal, with three hurricanes apiece, the experts said. So far this season, three tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic basin, none hurricanes.

Gray and Klotzbach say there is a 64 percent chance that a major hurricane will strike the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, with a 26 percent chance for the Gulf Coast.

Klotzbach added that the chances of another Hurricane Katrina-like disaster are small.

"This year, it looks like the East Coast is more likely to be targeted by Atlantic basin hurricanes than the Gulf Coast," he said.

For Florida and the East Coast, the probability of a storm landfall is 64 percent, compared with a long-term average of 31 percent.

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