21 Aug 1999

Is Slow News Good News on Storms?
Don't bet on it

It has been a quiet hurricane season. If history is any guide, that's about to change Nearly halfway through the six-month stretch, only one tropical storm has formed in the Atlantic: Arlene, which quickly fell apart in June. But meteorologists, still predicting a worse-than-average year, think Bret, Cindy and Dennis will soon be on their way. "The bell doesn't really ring to start the season until the 20th of August" said research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Starting now, the likelihood of a tropical storm or hurricane will increase every day, peaking on Sept. 10, said a sopkesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami. The spokesman said "We're still at the starting gate,. The peak of the season is really another 3 1/2 weeks away." Based on global weather conditions, hurricane forecaster Will Gray expects 14 named storms this season, the most he has ever predicted. He thinks nine will become hurricanes, compared with the aveage of six per year.

NOAA is predicting three or more "intense" hurricanes, with wind speeds in excess of 110 mph; the average is two. The Hurricane Center also expects an active season..

Although hurricane season runs from June to November, the most volatile period is late August through September. On Tuesday, the Hurricane Center was watching a large area of disturbed weather over Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula that had the potential to become a tropical cyclone. Satellite images showed a quiet Atlantic, but computer models suggested a tropical storm might develop over the ocean in the nex few days. This year reminds meteorologists of 1998, which had no tropical storms for the first half of August, followed by roughly a storm a week through late August and September. Last year had 14 named storms and 10 hurricanes. Georges gave the Tampa Bay area a scare in late September, and Mitch killed 9,000 Central Americans in late October. So, forcasters say, the slow start should fool no one. In 1992, for instance there wasn't a single hurricane until Aug. 22.
St. Petersburg Times Online 8/18/99, by Mike Brassfield

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