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2006 Hurricane News

Note: The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season officially began June 1 and ends November 30.

Hurricane & storm tracking for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans

2006 Names: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William


North Carolina State University scientists nailed 2006 Atlantic hurricane forecast; Season ends Thursday

More experienced forecasters had expected a stormy season, which began June 1. But the State scientists correctly predicted that only a few storms would roil East Coast waters. They got similar results last year, when State made its first public hurricane forecast. Research scientist Tingzhuang Yan made the 2006 predictions at an American Meteorological Society conference in April. Hurricane experts William Gray of Colorado State University and Chris Landsea of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sat in the first row. Gray's team had initially said nine hurricanes would develop in the Atlantic basin. NOAA estimated eight to 10 Atlantic hurricanes. N.C. State predicted that five or six hurricanes would form off the Eastern Seaboard and that one or two would make landfall. This season has seen nine named storms -- including five hurricanes. One -- Ernesto, which hit North Carolina as a tropical storm in September -- reached land. The N.C. State researchers are most interested in how many hurricanes will make landfall on the East Coast. Gray's work estimates the total number of tropical storms and hurricanes that will form in the Atlantic, many of which spin harmlessly at sea. Backed by NOAA funding and working with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, the State team correlated various climate conditions with the paths of past Atlantic hurricanes. The biggest factor, they found, was the difference between Atlantic sea-surface temperatures above and below the equator. When water is warmer than normal in the North Atlantic and cooler than normal in the South Atlantic, hurricanes are more likely to strike the East Coast. Virtually no temperature differences were recorded this year, leading to the prediction of only slightly-above-normal hurricanes. Despite the relatively quiet 2006 season, scientists say, an upswing of hurricane activity that began in 1995 could last decades longer. Nine of the previous 11 Atlantic hurricane seasons have been fiercer than normal, including last year's, which saw 28 storms -- including 15 hurricanes. Charlotte Observer_ 11/28/06

2006 hurricane season a dud; experts worry miscues will result in complacency

Most tropical storm experts had predicted that this year's Atlantic hurricane season would be deadly. Instead, with just a few days remaining in the June-November prime time, 2006 has turned out to be a dud. The vicious 2005 hurricane season spawned Katrina, Rita and other killer storms. In May, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 13 to 16 named tropical storms this year, eight to 10 of them hurricanes and four to six "major," or Category 3, 4 or 5. Meanwhile, a second group of hurricane experts at Colorado State University predicted 17 named storms, nine of them hurricanes and five of which would be major. In fact, this year there have been just nine named storms, only five of which became hurricanes and only two of those intense -- and none of them hit the U.S. mainland as hurricanes. And there's nothing more on the horizon between now and Nov. 30, when the 2006 hurricane season will formally close. The biggest mistake was failing to predict the onset of an El Niño weather pattern during the summer. El Niño, a periodic warm-water trend in the Pacific Ocean, almost always suppresses hurricane activity in the Atlantic by creating more crosswinds in the upper atmosphere that tear tropical storms apart before they can become hurricanes. Experts said other factors that impeded the formation of hurricanes were large dust storms off West Africa and a strong sinking of warm air over the Caribbean, which inhibited the formation of thunderstorms that could have evolved into tropical storms. Chicago Tribune/Contra Costa Times_ 11/19/06

October, 2006

Dust may dampen hurricane fury

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, discuss a surprising link between hurricane frequency in the Atlantic and thick clouds of dust that periodically rise from the Sahara Desert and blow off Africa's western coast. Lead author Amato Evan, a researcher at UW-Madison's Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS), pored over 25 years of satellite data - dating from 1981 to 2006 - and noticed the correlation. During periods of intense hurricane activity, he found, dust was relatively scarce in the atmosphere. In years when stronger dust storms rose up, on the other hand, fewer hurricanes swept through the Atlantic. The Sahara sand rises when hot desert air collides with the cooler, dryer air of the Sahel region-just south of the Sahara-and forms wind. As particles swirl upwards, strong trade winds begin to blow them west into the northern Atlantic. Dust storms form primarily during summer and winter months, but in some years - for reasons that aren't understood - they barely form at all. Geophysical Research Letters/Science Daily_ 10/10/06

Expert predicts 1 more Atlantic hurricane in 2006

Hurricane expert William Gray downgraded his forecast for the 2006 Atlantic storm season again Tuesday, predicting one more hurricane and two more named storms -- but no intense hurricanes. The new report calls for a below-average hurricane season, with a total of five hurricanes and 11 named storms. Gray and fellow Colorado State University researcher Philip Klotzbach cited El Nino conditions for the reduced number of storms. The team said it expects one hurricane and two named storms in October alone. AP/The Boston Channel_ 10/3/06

September, 2006

Canada could see edge of Hurricane Isaac

Isaac strengthened into the fifth hurricane of the Atlantic season Saturday, and its winds could reach Canada early next week, forecasters said. Isaac should stay east of Bermuda, but Nova Scotia and Newfoundland could feel the outer edges of the storm by Monday or Tuesday, forecasters said. AP/CNN_ 9/30/06

Tropical Storm Isaac forms in the Atlantic but not expected to threaten land

The latest forecast showed Isaac in the central Atlantic, turning north by Friday and then northeast, out into the north Atlantic, without reaching hurricane strength. The accuracy of such long-range forecasts can vary widely. According to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, the storm was expected to pick up strength in the next 24 hours, the center said. The hurricane season's busiest month draws to a close Saturday, with the mainland United States brushed by three tropical storms but no full-fledged hurricane -- a respite after the death and destruction of the last two years. CNN_ 9/28/06

Hurricane Helene weakens to Category 1

Hurricane Helene was downgraded to a Category 1 storm early Thursday as it churned in the open Atlantic well east of Bermuda, forecasters said.  At 5 a.m. EDT, Helene was centered about 550 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and was moving toward the north near 13 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Maximum sustained winds were near 90 mph, down from 100 mph Wednesday night.  Hurricane force winds extended outward up to 45 miles.  CNN_9/21/06

Hurricane Gordon weakens into a tropical storm

Tropical Storm Gordon, downgraded from a hurricane Wednesday, approached portions of Spain and Portugal, as it moved rapidly away from the sparsely populated Azores Islands.  Gordon was expected to join another weather system before it neared the Iberian peninsula later Wednesday or Thursday, said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It would be similar to the strong winter storms normal in those areas in Europe.  The Galicia region in northwest Spain has been placed on red alert -- the highest level -- and 11 other regions of Spain as far east as Madrid and south to Andalusia were put on lower levels of warning, said Angel Rivera, a spokesman for Spain's National Weather Institute.  CNN_9/20/06

Hurricanes Helene, Gordon gain strength over the Atlantic Ocean

Two hurricanes gained strength over the Atlantic Ocean, with Helene headed toward Bermuda and Gordon on a path for Portugal's Azores islands, U.S. forecasters said. Helene, which late yesterday became the second major hurricane of the 2006 season, strengthened further today and was packing maximum sustained winds of 125 miles (205 kilometers) an hour at 11 a.m. Miami time, the National Hurricane Center said on its Web site. The storm was about 1,090 miles east-southeast of Bermuda and moving to the northwest at about 9 mph. The center's forecast shows Helene turning west and then northwest again over the next five days, bringing it closer to Bermuda, though no immediate landfall was predicted. Hurricane Gordon, heading to the other side of the Atlantic, also intensified. The storm's winds accelerated to 90 mph from 80 mph earlier, as Gordon advanced toward the Azores. This year's June-November Atlantic storm season has been quieter than forecast and produced less than half the number of named storms that had formed by this time last year. Bloomberg_ 9/18/06

Hurricane Gordon downgraded to category 2
Hurricane Gordon was downgraded to a Category 2 storm Friday morning September 15, and tropical storm Helene was not gaining strength as both storms remained in the open Atlantic where they posed no threat to land, forecasters said.  Gordon's top sustained winds were near 177 kilometres an hour, just below the 178 km/h threshold for a Category 3 storm, according to the National Hurricane Center.  At 5 a.m., the storm was located about 1,094 kilometres east of Bermuda and moving northeast near 14 km/h. Weakening was expected over the next day, said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist.  Helene had top sustained winds near 72 km/h, but was expected to strengthen by the weekend. It was centred about 1,700 kilometres west of the southernmost Cape Verde Islands and moving west-northwest near 24 km/h, forecasters said.  Globeandmail.com_9/15/06

Hurricane Gordon and Tropical Storm Helene pose double trouble for ships in the Atlantic

Tropical Storm Helene moved quickly in the open Atlantic early Thursday, and a powerful Hurricane Gordon held on to its Category 3 strength, but neither posed any threat to land, forecasters said. In Canada, where Hurricane Florence's remnants raked Newfoundland with 100 mph wind gusts and bands of rain on Wednesday, the winds were expected to drop as the storm moved eastward during the day, the Canadian Hurricane Center said. Helene, the eighth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, had top sustained winds near 45 mph Thursday morning, well below the 74 mph threshold for a hurricane. It formed late Wednesday night and was not expected to threaten land, National Hurricane Center forecasters said. Gordon was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane late Wednesday when its top sustained winds jumped to 120 mph, up from 110 mph earlier in the day, forecasters said. The hurricane was moving out to sea and was no threat to land, according to the hurricane center. AP/CNN_ 9/14/06

Gordon becomes season's third Atlantic hurricane

Hurricane Gordon formed over the open Atlantic on Tuesday, and a new tropical depression formed off the coast of Africa, forecasters said. Meanwhile, Hurricane Florence sped toward its demise into the cooler waters off Canada's maritime provinces after battering Bermuda, the National Hurricane Center said. Gordon, with top sustained winds of 75 mph, was destined to remain over open waters and will not threaten land, forecasters said. Hurricanes have sustained winds of at least 74 mph. AP/CNN.com_ 9/13/06

Hurricane Florence pummels Bermuda with wind, Tropical Storm Gordon forms

Hurricane Florence lashed Bermuda with winds and rain and sent large ocean swells up the U.S.'s eastern seaboard to Canada today, as Tropical Storm Gordon formed to its south. ``No reports of major damage have been received,'' Bermuda government spokeswoman Beverly Lottimore said in a telephone interview. Tropical Storm Gordon may pass within about 220 miles (354 kilometers) of Bermuda's eastern tip in the latter part of the week, according to Jorge Aguirre, a meteorologist with the U.S. hurricane center, which coordinates tropical weather forecasts for countries along the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, North Atlantic Ocean and eastern North Pacific Ocean. ``Right now, it's expected to remain out to sea, but it could be a hurricane in the next couple of days,'' hurricane center meteorologist Eric Blake said. Bermuda was last struck by a major hurricane in September 2003, when Hurricane Fabian killed four people on a one-mile causeway linking the main island to the St. George's and St. David's islands, the Royal Gazette newspaper said on its Web site. Florence wasn't considered a major hurricane, because its sustained wind speed was below the 111 mph threshold. Florence remained a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale. Hurricane force winds extended 70 miles from the center of the storm. The U.S. center's five-day projection shows Florence weakening to tropical-storm force early Sept. 13 as it moves near the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. The Canadian Hurricane Centre said the storm could produce strong winds over eastern Nova Scotia and southern Newfoundland. Storms are named when their sustained winds reach at least 39 mph. Hurricane strength is reached when sustained speeds are 74 mph. Florence is the second hurricane of the Atlantic storm season, from June 1 to Nov. 30. By this time last year, 15 named storms had developed in the Atlantic, eight of them hurricanes. Bloomsberg_ 9/11/06

Florence becomes a hurricane, heads toward Bermuda

Florence was expected to pass very near the tiny British territory on Monday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. It was too early to tell if it might make a direct hit. The storm became a Category 1 hurricane early Sunday, with maximum sustained winds at 80 mph (130 kph) and expected to strengthen during the day, the hurricane center said. Bermuda issued a hurricane warning Sunday, and the government urged its 65,000 residents to take precautions. The storm was expected to veer away from the U.S. coast as it turns north toward Bermuda, but forecasters said its large size could also create high surf and rip currents along parts of the eastern U.S. coast. AP/CNN_ 9/10/06

Florence could become hurricane by weekend

Tropical Storm Florence gained strength in the open Atlantic on Wednesday and could become a hurricane by the weekend, but forecasters said it was too soon to tell if it would reach the United States.  Florence had sustained wind near 50 mph Wednesday morning, over the 39 mph threshold for a tropical storm. The minimum for a hurricane is 74 mph.  "Several days down the road it could very well strengthen into a hurricane," said National Hurricane Center forecaster Jack Beven. Forecasters have said that could happen as early as Friday.  CNN_9/6/06

Tropical Storm Florence develops in the central Atlantic

Florence (40 mph) is expected to continue strengthening for the next several days and move on a WNW track. This would position the storm/hurricane north of the Lesser Antilles by this weekend. Farther out in the Atlantic, a disturbance trailing Florence by several hundred miles has some potential for further development over the next day or two, although it remains disorganized and weak at the moment. Weather Channel_ 9/5/06

Ernesto weakens to a tropical depression; leaves at least 2 dead, more than 300,000 without power

On the eve of the Labor Day weekend, the storm prompted flash flood watches for wide sections of Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and central New York. The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, and the mayor of the District of Columbia, each declared a state of emergency because of the storm. Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich said Friday he decided against a state of emergency because his state has been so dry. Also Friday, a team of hurricane forecasters in Colorado lowered their expectations for the 2006 Atlantic season, predicting only five hurricanes instead of the seven previously forecast. Ernesto's top sustained wind reached 70 mph, just 4 mph below hurricane strength, as it passed over land at Long Beach, N.C., just west of Cape Fear. Its sustained wind speed had dropped to 35 mph by midday Friday. CBS News/AP_ 9/1/06

August, 2006

Ernesto could be hurricane before landfall

Tropical Storm Ernesto neared hurricane status Thursday as it barreled toward the coast of the Carolinas, and forecasters said hurricane conditions could affect the shoreline within the next six to 12 hours.  The National Hurricane Center said at 5 p.m. that a reconnaissance plane clocked Ernesto's winds at 70 mph, with higher gusts, just shy of the 74 mph hurricane threshold.  "Ernesto could reach the coast as a Category 1 hurricane," the advisory said.  CNN_8/31/06

Ernesto Strengthens; John Powers Down
Carolinas Brace For Heavy Rain; John Is A Category 3, Near Mexico

Ernesto is a tropical storm again, headed for the Carolinas, which is braced for heavy rain and possible flooding. Hurricane John, swirling off the west coast of Mexico, is down from a Category 4 to a Category 3, but remains a threat.  The National Hurricane Center has a tropical storm warning in effect for Ernesto, from Flagler Beach, Florida, on north to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.  As of 5 a.m., the center of Ernesto was about 90 miles east-southeast of Jacksonville, Fla., and about 195 miles south of Charleston, S.C., moving north at 15 miles per hour, with maximum sustained winds of about 50 miles per hour.  Hurricane John lashed tourist resorts with heavy winds and rain Thursday as the dangerous storm marched up Mexico's Pacific coast, and forecasters predicted its center would brush close to land before nicking the tip of Baja California and heading out to sea.  The Category 3 hurricane could dump up to a foot of rain along parts of Mexico's southern coast, causing landslides or flooding, meteorologists warned. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 125 mph early Thursday and stronger gusts capable of ripping roofs off buildings and causing storm surges of up to 18 feet above normal.  John was not expected to affect the United States - cooler Pacific waters tend to diminish the storms before they reach California.   CBS News_8/31/06

Dangerous John coming closer to Mexico
Hurricane John lashed tourist resorts with heavy winds and rain Wednesday as the dangerous storm marched up Mexico's Pacific coast, and forecasters predicted its center would brush close to land before nicking the tip of Baja California and heading out to sea.  The Category 4 hurricane could dump up to a foot of rain along parts of Mexico's southern coast, causing landslides or flooding, meteorologists warned. The hurricane had maximum sustained winds of 135 mph and stronger gusts capable of ripping roofs off buildings and causing storm surges of up to 18 feet above normal.  John was not expected to affect the United States — cooler Pacific waters tend to diminish the storms before they reach California. But a hurricane warning covered a more than 300-mile stretch of the Mexican coastline from the port city of Lazaro Cardenas north to Cabo Corrientes, the southwestern tip of the bay that holds Puerto Vallarta.  The government also issued a hurricane watch for portions of the southern Baja Peninsula, from La Paz south on the east coast and from Sante Fe south on the west coast, an area which includes the resort city of Cabo San Lucas.Yahoo News_8/30/06

Weak Tropical Storm Ernesto soaks South Florida, then heads for the Carolinas

"It probably won't become a hurricane again, but there's still that chance as the center of circulation passes the Florida peninsula and moves back out into the Atlantic," said CNN meteorologist Maria Ramos. "If that happens if may be able to regain a little bit of strength." A hurricane watch is now in effect from the Georgia-South Carolina border at the Savannah River, north to Cape Fear, North Carolina. A tropical storm warning remained in effect from Bonita Beach on Florida's west coast, southward around the peninsula and northward to the Savannah River. CNN_ 8/30/06

It's hurricane season! Stock up on bottled water and follow the USDA's food tips

With Tropical Storm Ernesto heading for U.S. coastal areas, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service urges consumers to prepare for possible adverse weather by reviewing USDA's recommendations for keeping food safe before, during and after a hurricane or tropical storm, especially one accompanied by power outages and flooding. A Consumer's Guide to Food Safety: Severe Storms and Hurricanes, is available on FSIS' Web site, USDA Press release/

Florida's Dade and Broward Counties prepare drinking water and other emergency supplies in advance of Tropical Storm Ernesto

Dade and Broward Counties are under a hurricane watch as of 5 a.m. Monday morning and residents start to prepare for Tropical Storm Ernesto's arrival. Miami Dade Water And Sewer officials say they are prepared with generators at stations and mobile generators for pump stations. They have chemicals and fuel in storage. Miami Dade Water And Sewer officials want to remind residents to buy plenty of drinking water ahead of time. CBS4_ 8/28/06

Ernesto first Atlantic hurricane of 2006 season - briefly

Ernesto strengthened into a full Hurricane Sunday, before dropping back to a Tropical Storm as it dumped torrential rains on Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center predicted, however, that it would regain hurricane strength as it heads for Florida. A mandatory tourist evacuation was ordered for the Florida keys. Forecasters said it could regain hurricane status before reaching eastern Cuba Monday morning. National Hurricane Center/ 8/27/06

Tropical Storm Ernesto targeting Jamaica, Caymans, Cuba; Could become season's first Atlantic hurricane

Ernesto's impacts of heavy rain, gusty winds, and high surf will become more apparent as Sunday progresses in southeast Cuba and Jamaica. The brunt of Ernesto should affect the Caymans on Monday. Ernesto may become the season's first hurricane (in the Atlantic Basin) late Sunday night or early Monday. Monday's track of Ernesto is crucial. If it happens to track over a significant part of Cuba, the circulation should weaken. If it stays over water, however, strengthening may instead take place. Ernesto may enter the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday, possibly impacting the Florida Keys. Beyond that, Ernesto may strengthen and become a significant hurricane threatening the central or eastern Gulf of Mexico by mid-late next week. Weather Channel_ 8/26/06

Max Mayfield to retire as director of National Hurricane Center

Mayfield, whose calm voice but resolute manner guided millions through some of the worst hurricane seasons in history, will retire as director of the National Hurricane Center and leave in January, he told his staff this afternoon. Mayfield, 57, has led the hurricane center and its forecasters since May 2000. He said he plans to remain in charge during the rest of the season, retire after 34 years of federal service and then consider his options. In the recent past, he has told friends that last year's record season and the busy season before that left him worn and that the demands of running a high-profile government operation weighed heavily on him. Still, the decision had to have been difficult. Shortly before accepting the post six years ago, Mayfield told The Miami Herald that it was the only job he ever really wanted. Miami Herald_ 8/25/06

Tropical Storm Ernesto now in Caribbean

Tropical Storm Ernesto formed Friday over the Caribbean as it moved toward Jamaica and the Cayman Islands and could develop into the first hurricane of the 2006 Atlantic season, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Ernesto was projected to reach hurricane strength early next week and to enter the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday or Wednesday but it was too soon to predict whether it would hit the United States, said Robbie Berg, a forecaster with the hurricane center in Miami. Jamaica, which stood straight in the storm's path, issued a tropical storm watch, and Haiti issued a tropical storm watch for its southern coast. AP/Yahoo_ 8/25/06

As Debby fades, Ernesto gets ready

A tropical depression north of Venezuela was on the verge of strengthening into a named storm Friday, forecasters said. Tropical Storm Debby was weakening in the open Atlantic. The depression, which could become Tropical Storm Ernesto, was centered about 340 miles south of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Forecasters said it was moving west at about 15 mph. Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Debby weakened and was only a threat to ships in the open ocean. AP/CBS News_ 8/25/06

Tropical Storm Debby forms in Atlantic

Tropical Storm Debby formed off the coast of Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic Tuesday, forecasters said. The depression that formed Monday was centered 300 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde and was moving toward the west-northwest at speeds of near 18 mph. Cape Verde is 350 miles off the African coast. Long-range forecasts show the storm nearing Bermuda in about a week. But it was still too early to tell if it would hit land, senior hurricane specialist James Franklin said. AP/Boston Globe_ 8/22/06

Tropical Storm Debby expected to form during next 24 hours

A tropical depression that emerged yesterday near the Cape Verde Islands may become Tropical Storm Debby as early as today, forecasters said. The fourth tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season has top sustained winds of 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) -- just four miles per hour under the threshold for a named tropical storm. It was about 130 miles south-southwest of the southern Cape Verde Islands as of 8 a.m. Miami time, the National Hurricane Center said. It's moving west-northwest at about 16 mph and is expected to turn northwest today. That path would put the storm in the central Atlantic by the end of the week, where changing wind patterns could break up the storm's intensity. Bloomberg_ 8/22/06

Shear luck hindering hurricanes - so far

They're just two little words, but they can be music to the ears: wind shear.  The weather phenomenon perhaps best known for knocking planes out of the sky decades ago also can rip apart hurricanes or even prevent the storms from forming. This year's shearing winds have been a tad stronger than prognosticators had expected, so they deserve partial credit for the relative quiet of the 2006 hurricane season so far.  They also can take a bow for keeping a persistent low-pressure system that was drifting off the coast of Jacksonville, Fla., last week from sprouting into the season's fourth tropical storm.  By this time last year, the Atlantic basin had produced nine named storms, four of which became hurricanes.  Unfortunately, forecasters do not expect the calm to last. Wind shear is a big reason.  "Wind shear is very strong for about six months; then it drops off in June and July and reaches a minimum in August and September," said Chris Landsea, chief science officer at the National Hurricane Center west of Miami. "That's a big factor in why ... half of all major hurricanes occur in September, and 90 percent of all hurricanes occur in August, September and October."  Kansas City Star_8/22/06

Forecasters see less active 2006 hurricane season

The hurricane season will be slightly less intense than first predicted with as many as nine hurricanes expected to form, government forecasters said on Tuesday, but warned the most dangerous part of the season was still to come. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the 2006 season could produce between 12 to 15 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes and three or four of them being classified as "major" hurricanes that could threaten the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In May, NOAA predicted this hurricane season would produce 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become major hurricanes with winds 111 miles per hour (179 km per hour) or higher. Reuters_ 8/8/06

Now a tropical depression, Chris limps toward Cuba

Downgraded to a tropical depression, Chris stumbled through the southeastern Bahamas and toward Cuba today. Forecasters said it could redevelop into a tropical storm and deliver modest rain to South Florida on Sunday as it passes to the south -- but it posed no serious danger. Miami Herald_ 8/4/06

Researchers revise 2006 hurricane forecast: Liklihood of another Katrina 'very small'

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University reduced the number of likely hurricanes to seven from nine and intense hurricanes to three from five. There is, however, a considerably higher-than-average probability of at least one intense hurricane making landfall in the United States this year, 73 percent. The average is 52 percent. AP/MSNBC_ 8/3/06

Tropical Storm Chris weakens

Tropical Storm Chris rapidly ran out of steam Thursday morning as it pushed across the eastern Caribbean, and forecasters said it could weaken by evening to a tropical depression.  At 10 a.m. ET, Chris had top maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, just 1 mph above the minimum to be a named storm and down from 65 mph Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. The center of the storm was about 255 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island.  CNN_8/3/06

Tropical Storm forces evacuations, likely to strengthen

Tropical Storm Chris swept through the eastern Caribbean on Wednesday, forcing tourists to evacuate small islands off the coast of Puerto Rico as it threatened to become the first hurricane of the Atlantic season.  The storm had top sustained winds of 60 mph as it swirled past the northern Leeward Islands and moved west-northwest toward the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  A hurricane watch was issued in the southeastern Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the National Hurricane Center said. The watch meant hurricane conditions with winds of at least 74 mph were possible by late Thursday.  CNN_8/2/06

Tropical Storm Chris forms near Caribbean islands; third of the 2006 Atlantic season

Chris formed on Tuesday in the Atlantic Ocean east of the Leeward Islands, prompting storm alerts for some of the small northeastern Caribbean islands and Puerto Rico. Forecasters with the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said it would reach the central Bahamas by Sunday, headed toward the southeast Florida coast. Forecasters said the storm had the potential to strengthen. Forecasters have predicted up to 17 tropical storms and hurricanes this year. Last year saw a record 28, including Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. It devastated New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast and killed more than 1,300 people. Reuters_ 8/1/06

A hurricane hitting the northeast U.S. coast could cripple economy: CBS news report

A direct hit on New York's Long Island by a Category 3 or higher hurricane would cost $100 billion. But the same size storm spinning into central New Jersey would be catastrophic — raking New York and points north with its strongest winds. The result: $200 billion in damages and lost business. Economic losses would be twice that of the 9-11 attacks, and three times larger than Hurricane Katrina. When it comes to a northeast hurricane, experts say forget what you know. They're much bigger than their southern cousins. A major northeast hurricane is nearly three times more likely this year thanks to favorable weather conditions, including the position of the Bermuda High. Last year it pushed storms southwest. Now it's set to steer hurricanes up the East Coast. CBS_ 7/30/06

NOAA expert questions global warming link to hurricane intensity

Historical data on hurricanes is too crude to determine long-term trends in intensity, says Christopher Landsea, a science and operations officer with NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Extreme hurricanes like Katrina were likely as common around the world 30 years ago as they are today, Landsea says. But since satellite imagery was poorer, storm intensities were underreported. Landsea is the lead author of a commentary in today's issue of the research journal Science. The commentary rebuts a string of papers published in the last 12 months that link global warming with a surge in the number of extreme tropical cyclones over the past 30 to 40 years. National Geographic News_ 7/28/06

Tropical Storm Beryl likely to stay off U.S. east coast

Tropical Storm Beryl headed north Wednesday, with the worst of its rain and wind remaining several miles off the North Carolina coast. The National Hurricane Center is expected to discontinue a tropical storm watch from Cape Lookout to the Currituck Beach Light by afternoon. Beryl could strengthen somewhat over the next 24 hours but isn't likely to grow into a hurricane, the National Hurricane Center said. The storm appeared likely to move parallel to the East Coast instead of heading ashore, said Richard Pasch, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. AP/CNN_ 7/19/06

Depression grows into Tropical Storm Beryl

The second tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season formed off the North Carolina coast Tuesday, and a tropical storm watch was issued for the eastern part of the state. A hurricane reconnaissance aircraft reported that the storm's maximum sustained winds were at least 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. At 8 p.m. ET, Beryl was centered about 160 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras and was moving north at about 6 mph. The storm is expected to make its closest approach to North Carolina on Wednesday and it was forecast to remain a tropical storm, hurricane specialist Eric Blake said. AP/CNN_ 7/18/06

Hurricane forecasters issue special tropical statement for U.S. Atlantic Coast

A tropical depression appears to be forming in the Atlantic about 250 miles southeast of North Carolina and residents of that state and Virginia should remain alert, forecasters said this morning. An Air Force hurricane hunter plane will investigate the system this afternoon, said forecaster Stacy Stewart of the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County. Forecasters have been watching the area for days, saying that a low pressure system over the Atlantic had the potential to develop into a tropical system. It appeared to be doing so this morning, compelling Stewart to issue a "special tropical disturbance statement" at 8:19 a.m.   Bradenton Herald_ 7/18/06

June, 2006

Weakened Tropical Storm Alberto heading into Georgia

A weakened Tropical Storm Alberto struck the U.S. Gulf Coast with heavy rains today about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southeast of Tallahassee, Florida, and will move toward the Carolinas before heading back into the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center said. The center of the storm went ashore near Adams Beach about 12:30 p.m. local time, the hurricane center said, citing reports from U.S. Air Force spotter aircraft. Alberto's power was blunted before it reached land by strong wind sheer, similar to the way an ocean swimmer is held back by breaking waves, said Jamie Rhome, a hurricane specialist at the weather center in Miami. The eastern parts of North and South Carolina could get between 4 inches and 8 inches of rain before the storm heads back out into the Atlantic and loses its tropical characteristics, Rhome said. 6/13/06

Tropical Storm Alberto could be a hurricane when it hits Florida coast; thousands ordered to evacuate coastal areas

Tropical Storm Alberto's winds reached 70 mph Monday as the storm blew toward Florida's northeast Gulf Coast, where the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from the Tampa Bay area to near Tallahassee. Forecasters urged people to quickly complete "preparations to protect life and property" with Alberto likely to reach hurricane strength -- 74 mph winds -- within 24 hours. The hurricane center in Miami predicts the storm will make landfall as early as Tuesday morning. The center's director, Max Mayfield, told CNN Monday night that the storm appeared to have "leveled off" and was no longer strengthening. The main threat from the system is heavy rainfall, according to the hurricane center. Alberto could dump up to 10 inches of rain through Tuesday across portions of central and northern Florida and southeastern Georgia. CNN.com_ 6/12/06

Editor's Note: Rain from Alberto could ease drought conditions in central and north Florida.

Alberto becomes first named storm of Atlantic season

The first tropical storm of the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, Alberto, formed off Cuba on Sunday and appeared headed toward Florida, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Alberto was a wake-up call for a new hurricane season for U.S. coastal residents battered by eight hurricanes in the last two years, including Hurricane Katrina -- the most costly and one of the deadliest natural disasters in America's history. Alberto has dumped heavy rain on Cuba and was predicted to make landfall in heavily populated Florida on Tuesday, cross the northern part of the state, and then enter the Atlantic. Reuters_ 6/11/06

May, 2006

Profile: A mile above sea level in Fort Collins, Colorado, William M. Gray uses historical data to predict North Atlantic hurricanes

From his office at Colorado State University at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and 65 miles north of Denver, Gray pioneered the concept of "seasonal" hurricane forecasting — predicting months in advance the severity of the coming hurricane season. Gray's prognostications, issued since 1983, are used by insurance companies to calculate premiums, media outlets to remind coastal residents of the hazards of bad weather, and even storm window manufacturers who have cited the forecasts in their sales pitches. This year he predicts nine hurricanes, with a 55% chance of landfall in the United States. He will update that forecast Wednesday.   Los Angeles Times_ 5/29/06 (logon required)

NOAA predicts 4-6 'major' hurricanes in very active 2006 north Atlantic season

NOAA today announced to America and its neighbors throughout the north Atlantic region that a very active hurricane season is looming, and encouraged individuals to make preparations to better protect their lives and livelihoods. "For the 2006 north Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA is predicting 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which four to six could become 'major' hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. On average, the north Atlantic hurricane season produces 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. In 2005, the Atlantic hurricane season contained a record 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of these hurricanes were considered "major," of which a record four hit the United States. "Although NOAA is not forecasting a repeat of last year's season, the potential for hurricanes striking the U.S. is high," added Lautenbacher. NOAA_ 5/22/06

FEMA says it's ready for 2006 hurricane season

Chastened by its dismal performance in Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says it is far better prepared now to cope with catastrophic natural disasters, although lawmakers on Capitol Hill and even some officials in the agency remain skeptical. Two weeks before hurricane season begins, FEMA already has begun storing water, food and medical supplies in warehouses throughout south Louisiana and other areas considered vulnerable to storms. Shipments of supplies, which were lost or misdirected during Katrina, will be tracked by satellite with global positioning devices. Contracts for critical commodities such as ice already have been signed. And special federal advance teams will be outfitted with video cameras that will provide live feeds from a disaster zone back to headquarters. Times-Picayune_ 5/13/06 (logon required)

Crumbling dike at Lake Okeechobee, 2nd largest U.S. fresh water lake, threatens south Florida

Even a weak hurricane can overwhelm the leaky and crumbling dike around Florida's massive Lake Okeechobee, putting more than 40,000 people in "imminent danger," state officials said on Tuesday. With hurricane season less than a month away, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush urged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed restoration of the dike, while the state scrambles to protect against what the governor said was a one-in-six chance the dike would fail in a direct hit from a hurricane. He ordered state emergency managers to put together an evacuation plan for inland residents living near the south rim of Lake Okeechobee -- the second-largest freshwater body in the United States after Lake Michigan. The lake covers 730 square miles and its waters are held back by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a 140-mile (220-km) earthen structure built in stages by the U.S. Corps of Engineers beginning in 1932. Age and recent hurricanes have taken a toll, according a report released on Tuesday by the South Florida Water Management District. Reuters_ 5/2/06

April, 2006

Senate panel urges FEMA dismantling

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was so fundamentally dysfunctional during Hurricane Katrina that Congress should abolish it and create a new disaster response agency from scratch, according to a draft of bipartisan recommendations proposed by a Senate committee. The new agency, which would still be part of the Department of Homeland Security, should be more powerful, with additional components that would give it a budget twice as big as FEMA's, the report's draft recommendations say. It would assume functions spread throughout the department, like preparing for disasters or terrorist attacks, protecting the nation's infrastructure and distributing grants to state and local governments. And during major catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina, the agency's director would report directly to the president. FEMA today has a budget of $4.8 billion, and 2,600 full-time employees. New York Times_ 4/26/06 (logon required)

Weather forecasters plan future satellites

Ready for the launch of a new weather satellite next month, government forecasters also are turning their attention a decade ahead to plan for what their eyes in the sky will need to be like in the future.  The GOES-N satellite is scheduled for launch in May, with two more launches over the next two years to complete that series of satellites.  That means it's time to plan for future satellites, expected to go up in 2014 or later, and the effort gets under way next week with a meeting of some 200 weather satellite experts in Broomfield, Colo.  The GOES satellites sit in fixed positions over a spot on the equator, one watching the East Coast and Atlantic Ocean, the other observing the West Coast and Pacific.  They provide visible images of storms such as hurricanes so often seen on television broadcasts. But they also carry instruments that collect infrared radiation which allows meteorologists to determine temperatures in the air and water, and other instruments that can determine humidity, wind and other details that aid in storm forecasting.  The new satellite scheduled to go up in May should also benefit forecasters in hurricane season, which begins June 1. MSNBC_4/27/06

Goodbye Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma. NOAA retires names of 5 deadly 2005 hurricanes, and for 2006, it's Alberto through William

Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma, all from the historic 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, were "retired" by an international hurricane committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which includes the NOAA National Hurricane Center, during their annual meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The five storms, part of last season's record-setting 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes, will not reappear on the list of potential storm names that is otherwise recycled every six years. Names for the upcoming 2006 season, which begins June 1, include Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William. On this list Kirk replaces Keith, which was retired following its impact on Mexico and Belize in 2000. NOAA_ 4/6/06

Bush nominates R. David Paulison as permanent FEMA chief

With hurricane season just two months away, President Bush yesterday nominated the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to be permanent head of the nation's disaster response agency. Paulison, a 30-year firefighter, took over at FEMA in September, when Bush named him to replace Michael D. Brown, who resigned in the face of unrelenting criticism over the agency's sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina. If confirmed by the Senate, Paulison would be undersecretary for federal emergency management at the Homeland Security Department. ''I'd be darned if I was going to turn my back on it," Paulison, 59, said during a news conference after he and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged that some others were not interested in pursuing the position. Of the June 1 start of the hurricane season, Paulison said, ''We're going to be ready for it." AP/Boston Globe_ 4/7/06

Forecasters see busy 2006 hurricane season

The 2006 hurricane season will not be as ferocious as last year when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and other storms slammed Florida and Texas, but will still be unusually busy, a noted U.S. forecasting team said on Tuesday. The Colorado State University team led by Dr. William Gray, a pioneer in forecasting storm probabilities, said it expected 17 named storms to form in the Atlantic basin during the six-month season, which officially begins on June 1. Nine of the storms will strengthen into hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 mph, the team said, reaffirming an early prediction made in December and updated to include current trends like the La Nina weather phenomenon, cool Pacific waters and an abnormally warm Atlantic. The Colorado State forecasters said five of the hurricanes were likely to be major storms, reaching at least Category 3 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity, and boasting winds of at least 111 mph. Storms of Category 3 strength and above cause the most destruction. But they also said there were likely to be fewer major storms making landfall in the United States compared to 2005, when virtually every hurricane record was broken, and also 2004, when Florida was bashed by four consecutive hurricanes. Reuters_ 4/4/06

February, 2006

White House reports lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina

The federal government must play a stronger role in dealing with catastrophic disasters, including using the military more, the White House said Thursday in a report ordered by President Bush to study lessons from the Hurricane Katrina response. The report, which combined a detailed reconstruction of what went wrong with more than 100 recommendations, embraced the traditional view that state and local authorities should take the lead in ordinary emergencies. But it said that in major disasters like Katrina — which swept across an area the size of Britain — only the federal government had the resources and broad authority to react effectively. The report reserved its sharpest and most detailed criticisms for the Department of Homeland Security and other federal institutions the report said were mired in red tape, lacked clear lines of authority, and struggled with a crippled communications system that left emergency workers isolated and uninformed. Los Angeles Times_ 2/24/06 (logon required)

PDF White House Report Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned

Plus Fact Sheet

La Nina to affect U.S. weather into summer: NOAA

The return of a La Nina weather pattern this year will likely mean drought in southern and southwestern U.S. states, government forecasters said on Thursday, adding it was too early to tell if La Nina would also lead to more Atlantic hurricanes in 2006. La Nina, which means infant girl in Spanish, is an unusual cooling of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, which can trigger widespread changes in weather around the world. Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said La Nina could wreak havoc on U.S. weather through late spring, and possibly into the summer. Reuters_ 2/2/06

January, 2006

Water level loggers track hurricane surge
Shortly before Hurricane Rita came barreling into the Louisiana Coast in late September, a group of hydrologists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Ruston, LA came upon a novel idea as to how they might be able to track storm surge levels as the hurricane was happening.  The idea was to deploy water level data loggers, which were typically used for groundwater monitoring, in areas throughout coastal Louisiana and Texas that were likely to be inundated by the surge.  "Ever since the USGS has been in existence in Louisiana, we've always tried to document the effects of hurricanes on the Louisiana coast," said Ben McGee, a supervisory hydrologist with the USGS. "Up to this point, storm surge data had always been generated after the storm. We'd basically go into a storm-impacted area after the fact and look for high water marks that indicate storm surge. After Hurricane Katrina, a group of us here in Ruston were lamenting the fact that we couldn't be more proactive about data collection in the face of major hurricanes. We kicked around some ideas, and started thinking about putting out recording devices." The group's concept quickly turned into reality. Within a 72-hour period, McGee and his team obtained approval and funding from USGS for the proposed monitoring project, purchased and received 46 HOBO(R) water level data loggers from Massachusetts-based Onset Computer Corp., and rushed down to the Louisiana coast 250 miles away to put their plan into action. There, the team spent a stormy, pitch-black night attaching the loggers to pilings, bridges, and other structures throughout coastal Louisiana that would survive the hurricane.  The loggers were set up on laptops running HOBOware(R) software, and programmed to measure and record water levels every 30 seconds around the clock.  One week later, the effort to recover the loggers began. Approximately 80% of the loggers were recovered, and the team is currently in the process of offloading and analyzing the data. "A database is being built to house all of the data we collected, and by displaying the data in a time-series manner, USGS scientists will get a visual sense for the flood inundation as reported by the loggers," said McGee.  Businesswire_1/12/06


Tropical Storm Zeta - and 2005 hurricane season - finally draw their last breath

Tropical Storm Zeta fell apart Friday in the open Atlantic, finally bringing the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season to an end. Zeta, which was never a threat to land, set one last record before strong wind shear and dry air robbed it of its wind speed and other characteristics of a tropical system: No named storm ever endured so long into January. Hurricane Alice in 1955 was the only other Atlantic storm to greet a new year at all. The 2006 season officially begins June 1, but any tropical storms that form early would be part of its tally. The first name on the list is Alberto. AP/ABC News_  1/6/06

Tropical Storm Zeta drifts in open Atlantic

The 27th and last named storm of the record-breaking 2005 hurricane season, Zeta had top sustained winds near 50 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Forecasters said Zeta was not expected to become a hurricane or threaten land. The storm developed Friday, nearly a month after the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended. It tied a record for the latest-developing storm since record-keeping began in 1851. AP/Houston Chronicle_ 1/2/06

Straggler storm Zeta churns in open Atlantic

A strengthened Tropical Storm Zeta churned in the open Atlantic on Saturday, a month after the end of the official Atlantic and Caribbean hurricane season, without posing any threat to land. The 27th named storm of a season that has broken a slew of weather records. Six tropical storms have strengthened into hurricanes in December since record-keeping began in 1851, including Epsilon earlier this month. The previous record for most tropical storms was 21, set in 1933. Fourteen of this year's storms strengthened into hurricanes, breaking the old record of 12 set in 1969. The year also saw the costliest hurricane on record when Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf Coast in August, killing at least 1,300 people and causing more than $80 billion of damage. Reuters_ 12/31/05

Epsilon finally weakens into a tropical storm

Hurricane Epsilon finally weakened into a tropical storm on Wednesday, several days after forecasters had expected the stubborn 26th tropical cyclone of a record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season to fade away. Epsilon was the 14th hurricane, beating a record of 12 set in 1969. Reuters_ 12/7/05

Forecasters see more big hurricanes in 2006

The Colorado State University hurricane research team said nine of 17 storms predicted for 2006 would become Atlantic hurricanes, with five of them intense, or "major," hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph (177 kph). The CSU research team is headed by Dr. William Gray, a pioneer in forecasting storm probabilities. It has had some success with accurate predictions in the past, though its forecast a year ago for the 2005 season was well off the mark. It predicted 11 tropical storms and said six would become hurricanes. The season turned out to be a record-breaker with 26 storms, shattering the mark of 21 set in 1933. Fourteen of the storms became hurricanes, including Epsilon, which continued to churn through the Atlantic with 75 mph (120 kph) winds southwest of the Azores on Tuesday at the tail end of the official season. Katrina became the most expensive hurricane on record when it swamped New Orleans and the U.S. Gulf coast in August, killing at least 1,300 people and causing at least $80 billion in damage. The average season produces 9.6 storms, of which 5.9 become hurricanes and 2.3 are intense, or major, hurricanes. CSU said 2006 would again be well above average. The probability of a major Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane -- the most destructive types -- hitting somewhere on the U.S. coast was 81 percent, the researchers said. Florida, pounded by eight hurricanes in the last two years, had a 64 percent chance of being hit by a major storm. Gray said he was turning over primary authorship of the CSU forecasts to Phil Klotzbach, a member of the research team for five years. Gray has been making predictions for 22 years. Reuters_ 12/6/05


2006 Hurricanes
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