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Florida in the Bull's Eye this Hurricane Season

May 08, 2007; 12:12 PM
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"We're in for a Rough Year" Says AccuWeather.com's Bastardi

(State College, PA - May 8, 2007) - AccuWeather.com Chief Hurricane Forecaster Joe Bastardi and his team expect this season's hurricanes and tropical storms to pose a far greater threat to lives and property than last year - with significantly more storms striking the U.S.

In the AccuWeather.com 2007 Hurricane Season Forecast released today, Bastardi warns that six or seven storms will strike the U.S. coast. This includes the possibility of multiple strikes by the same storm, such as the way Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina - both extreme examples - struck Florida before later striking the U.S. Gulf Coast. The majority of these landfalls are projected for the Gulf Coast from the mouth of the Mississippi River to Cape Hatteras, NC, with the center of the bullseye on Florida.

AccuWeather.com forecasts 13 or 14 total storms in the Atlantic Basin, with three or more likely to be major hurricanes of Category 3 or greater.

Bastardi, who in March of last year correctly forecast that the Gulf Coast would get minimal attention by that season's hurricanes, said that this year's indicators all point to the Gulf being at much higher risk for destructive tropical weather than last year.

Said Bastardi, "The highest area of risk has swung southwest from the Atlantic to Florida and the eastern and central Gulf Coast regions. In past years that exhibited the same climatological patterns we expect this season, these areas were the main target of Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms."

"Some of those years also saw a storm break out of the pack and head up the East Coast, and we would not be surprised to see this scenario play out this year as well. Any storm that strikes north of Hatteras has increased potential to be a major one," he said.

Bastardi described the climatological patterns that he and his team expect to have an impact on this year's hurricane season, including:

-The occurrence of a weak La Niña - a formation of cooler-than-normal Pacific waters - in the wake of an El Niño at the end of last year.

-The current warm-water cycle that is occurring in the area of the Atlantic that is a breeding ground for hurricanes, as well as forecast precipitation and air pressure patterns expected during hurricane season.

-How spring is evolving across the North American continent.

-How summer is projected to evolve across the United States.

-Forecasted air pressure oscillations over the Pacific, and diminished dry air over the tropical Atlantic.

-Many of the climatological patterns currently occurring or projected for this hurricane season are similar to those of the 1930s through the 1950s, which was a period marked by frenzied hurricane activity.

Cautioned AccuWeather.com, Director of Forecast Operations Ken Reeves, "It is true that one of the patterns we are accounting for is the formation of a La Niña following the recent El Niño, but too often, the impact of a La Niña or an El Niño on a hurricane season is oversimplified. It is just one of many patterns that needs to be examined when predicting a hurricane season, and often not the most important one."

Regarding the impact that the 2007 hurricane season is projected to have, Reeves said, "The heightened threat we foresee for Florida and the eastern Gulf Coast could have significant implications for the areas still recovering from the devastation wrought by the hurricanes of 2004 and 2005."

Added Reeves, "Those living farther up the East Coast should by no means let down their guard. While the threat there is lower than last year, "less risk" does not mean no risk. We expect at least one storm will threaten these areas."

Regarding the impact that this season will have on energy prices, Reeves said, "Any time you have hurricanes roaming the Gulf of Mexico, there is the possibility that energy production could be disrupted. This obviously could affect the prices consumers pay for gasoline and natural gas."

Concluded Reeves, "Overall, we will see more powerful storms across the board than we did last year. We will not get anywhere near the amount of storms that we did in 2005, but it is the intensity of the storms we do get that will be of major concern. It goes without saying that if I were living along the Gulf Coast, Florida, or the Carolinas, I would do all I could to make sure that my family and I were prepared for the possibility of a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane. This is always prudent, but it is especially so during times such as this season, when we are likely to see above-normal storm activity."

Regarding the possibility of a tropical storm or hurricane striking the Northeast, Bastardi's 2006 forecast still holds: the region is likely be the target of a couple of storm strikes over the next ten years. "Last year the Northeast may have dodged a bullet, but unfortunately you can only be lucky for so long. As we are in a pattern similar to that of the late 1930s through the 1950s, it is important to note that during that span the Northeast was hit by major storms."

Last year, Bastardi forecast that the East Coast would be far more likely than the eastern and central Gulf to see hurricane activity, and indeed, most of 2006's ten storms tracked farther east than in 2005 - including Ernesto, which caused a half billion dollars in damages in the region from North Carolina to New Jersey.

In summarizing what can be expected this summer, Bastardi said, "We are living in a time of climatic hardship. We're in a cycle where weather extremes are more the norm and not the exception. One of the ways this manifests itself is in the intensity and frequency of hurricanes and tropical storms. Last year was just a breather, because the overall pattern of increased landfalls shows no sign of reversing in the near term."

Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30.

If you are a member of the media and would like to speak with a meteorologist about this story, call the AccuWeather.com 24/7 media line, (814) 235-8710.

About AccuWeather.com

AccuWeather, The World's Weather Authority®, presents accurate, localized, branded forecasts and severe weather bulletins to over 106 million Americans each day via the Internet, mobile devices and IPTV, through the airwaves, and in print. The 113 meteorologists at AccuWeather deliver a portfolio of customized products and services to media, business, government, and institutions, and inform millions of visitors worldwide through the free AccuWeather.com website. AccuWeather also provides content onto more than 20,000 third-party Internet sites, including CNN Interactive, ABC's owned and operated stations, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Visit www.accuweather.com for more information.

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