NOAA: More hurricanes to come
Forecasters say 2005 could be among stormiest years ever
From Paul Courson
Dennis was the earliest storm to reach a Category 4 hurricane status in the Caribbean basin.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- This year's record-breaking start to the hurricane season is only the beginning of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday said could be an unusually violent year.
"This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record," NOAA director David Johnson said in a statement.
The NOAA raised its 2005 hurricane outlook on Tuesday, forecasting an additional 11 to 14 tropical storms from now through November, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes.
Three to five are expected to become major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 storms or higher, with sustained winds of at least 111 mph (179 kph).
NOAA experts have found optimal conditions for hurricane development, including unusually warm ocean surface temperatures and low wind shear.
The agency says the season will peak between August and November and urges residents and government officials in vulnerable communities to have a plan ready.
Already, a record seven tropical storms tracked across the Atlantic between June and July.
Two of them became major hurricanes, Dennis and Emily, reaching Category 4 status with 135 mph (217 kph) winds. (Full story)
Dennis also became the earliest Category 4 hurricane recorded in the Caribbean basin.
The revised outlook for this season is for 18 to 21 tropical storms, with at least nine of them developing into hurricanes. Five to seven of them are expected to be major hurricanes.
Forecasters are uncertain about how many tropical storms and hurricanes will make landfall in the United States and the Caribbean.
The most active hurricane season on record occurred in 1933, when 21 systems reached tropical storm status or greater. The next most violent year was 1995, with 19 storms.
NOAA's original outlook for the season, issued in May, predicted seven to nine hurricanes, three to five of them major. (Full story)
NOAA's top hurricane predictor, Gerry Bell, said that every 25 years or so a tropical pattern of ocean and atmospheric factors causes the hurricane count to swing from above to below average.
The Atlantic and Gulf coast regions of the United States are facing the crest of that cycle right now, posing a risk of storm damage that many people do not expect.
The same pattern also accounts for the below-average storm counts off the west coast of the United States.
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