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Forecasters predict 'normal' hurricane season


CAMP SPRINGS, Maryland -- Hurricane experts on Monday predicted the 2001 Atlantic season will see normal levels of activity, bringing fewer storms than the past three years.

In 2000, eight of the 14 named storms became hurricanes.

A normal hurricane season -- from June 1 to November 30 -- typically brings eight to 11 tropical storms, of which five to seven reach hurricane strength, with two to three classified as major.

A major hurricane has sustained winds greater than 110 mph and falls into Category 3, or above. Seasons with normal hurricane activity average one to two hurricanes that hit land in the United States, and one in the Caribbean.

Still, "residents in hurricane-prone areas can't afford to let their guard down," said Scott Gudes, acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Just one storm can dramatically change your life."


The Federal Emergency Management Agency "stands ready to provide both the leadership and the necessary technical assistance and guidance to communities as they assume responsibility for becoming more disaster-resistant," said FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh.

The hurricane forecast is based on an absence of influences such as El Nino or La Nina. These warming or cooling phenomena in the Pacific can affect climate around the world.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service, said the key climate patterns guiding this year's expected activity are long-term patterns of tropical rainfall, air pressure and temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

"Forecasters will monitor these climate patterns, especially leading up to the August-October peak period of the season," Kelly said.

Max Mayfield, director of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center in Miami, said hurricane-spawned disasters occur even in years with normal, or below-normal, levels of activity. For example, Hurricane Andrew of 1992, the costliest on record, developed during a season of below-normal hurricane activity, Mayfield said.

NOAA forecasters planned to issue an updated hurricane outlook in August.

• The National Hurricane Center
• Hurricane and Storm Tracking

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