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U.S. scales back Atlantic hurricane forecast

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be slightly less active than originally predicted but still above average, federal forecasters said Tuesday.
/ Source: Reuters

The United States hurricane season will be slightly less intense this year than first predicted with nine hurricanes expected to form, government forecasters said on Tuesday, but they warned the most dangerous part of the season was still to come.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 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.

“This year’s three named storms may pale in comparison to the record nine storms that formed through early August 2005, but conditions will be favorable for above-normal activity for the rest of this season — so we are not off the hook by any means,” said NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher.

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 or higher.

Other private and university researchers also have cut their outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season during the last week.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which ends on Nov. 30, typically peaks between Aug. 1 and late October.

U.S. government forecasters said wind, upper air pressure and a warmer-than-normal water temperature at the surface offer favorable conditions that could still lead to an above-average hurricane season.

Unlike a year ago, the absence of La Nina, an unusual cooling of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures, has helped reduce the number of early season storms that developed in June and July.

“Conditions this year reflect a more typical active season, with peak activity expected during August-October,” said Gerry Bell, a NOAA meteorologist.

The 2005 season generated a record 28 tropical storms, of which 15 became hurricanes. A record four major hurricanes hit the United States, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, killed 1,300 people and caused $80 billion in damage.

The average hurricane season generates 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major storms.