HURRICANE FORECASTERS EXPECT NORMAL ATLANTIC STORM ACTIVITY IN 2001
NOAA Says 5 to 7 Hurricanes Could Threaten
May 21, 2001 Top hurricane experts from NOAA today said the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season likely will have normal levels of activity, bringing fewer storms than the past three years. However, officials advised residents in Atlantic and Gulf Coast states to be prepared for storms, high winds and flooding throughout the season, which begins June 1. (Click on NOAA image to see larger view of Hurricane Floyd as seen by a NOAA satellite Sept. 13, 1999.)
here to view the Washington, D.C., news conference on May
21, 2001. Click
here to view the question and answer period following the
A normal Atlantic hurricane season typically brings eight to 11 tropical storms, of which five to seven reach hurricane strength, with two to three classified as major. A major hurricane packs sustained winds greater than 110 mph and is classified at Category 3, or above, on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Seasons with normal hurricane activity average one to two land-falling hurricanes in the United States, and one in the Caribbean.
"Although we expect an average level of activity this season, that is no cause to become complacent. With the possibility of five to seven hurricanes, residents in hurricane prone areas can't afford to let their guard down," said Scott Gudes, NOAA's acting administrator. "Just one storm can dramatically change your life." (Click on image for larger view of Scott Gudes, acting NOAA administrator speaking at Washington, D.C., news conference on the 2001 hurricane season.)
The news conference also marked the start of a nationwide Hurricane Awareness Week campaign led by NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and storm-vulnerable states to increase preparedness and safety among residents.
Gudes pointed to continuing
improvements in technology and research that enabled forecasters
to produce the 2001 outlook. "Better data from NOAA's weather
satellites, better models, the latest supercomputers and an improved
ability to monitor and understand global climate patterns are
helping to create better long-term forecasts," Gudes said.
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather Service, said without a strong La Niña or El Niño the key climate patterns guiding this year's expected activity are long-term patterns of tropical rainfall, air pressure and temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
"Forecasters will monitor these climate patterns, especially leading up to the August - October peak period of the season," Kelly said. "One of the most valuable forecast tools is the information gathered by NOAA and U.S. Air Force Reserve personnel who fly directly into these storms," Kelly added, while flanked by NOAA's WP-3D, G-IV and the Air Force's WC-130-H hurricane hunter/research aircraft.
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Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, said hurricane-spawned disasters occur even in years with normal, or below-normal, levels of activity. Hurricanes Donna of 1960, David and Frederic of 1979, and Elena, Gloria and Juan of 1985 are reminders of the destruction that can occur during seasons with normal hurricane activity, he said. Hurricane Andrew of 1992, the costliest hurricane on record, developed during a season of below-normal hurricane activity, Mayfield added. (Click on NOAA image of Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, speaking to a news conference in Washington, D.C., on the outlook for hurricane season 2001. Click here for another photo of Mayfield.)
"[Hurricane] Donna killed 50 people in the United States, and [Hurricane] Andrew caused more than $25 billion in damage in Florida," Mayfield said. "We don't want people to be caught off guard by a land-falling storm because the hurricane outlook calls for normal storm activity."
Mayfield also highlighted the dangers of inland flooding. "In 1999, Hurricane Floyd brought record flooding to the East Coast. Fifty of the 56 deaths during Hurricane Floyd were a direct result of inland flooding. That kind of threat remains with each approaching storm."
Mayfield added, "Storm surge from hurricanes bring the greatest potential for loss of life. When an evacuation order is given, residents should treat it as a life or death matter."
Brig. Gen. Robert Duignan, deputy to the Chief of Air Force Reserve, said the Air Force Reserve Command mission significantly narrows the coastline warning made by the National Hurricane Center. "This warning saves millions of dollars for businesses and, more important, saves the lives of citizens located in the storm's path," Duignan said.
"Studies have shown the
high accuracy data from our Air Force Reserve and NOAA aircraft
have improved the forecast accuracy by about 25 percent. Aircrews
in these storms also have detected sudden, dangerous changes
in hurricane intensity and movement, which are currently very
difficult to detect by satellite alone," added Duignan.
"The Hurricane Hunters are proud to serve as a vital link
in the hurricane surveillance and warning network, alerting vulnerable
The Atlantic hurricane seasons ends Nov. 30. As always, NOAA forecasters will issue an updated hurricane outlook in August.
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