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NOAA Says 5 to 7 Hurricanes Could Threaten

NOAA's 2001 hurricane season outlookMay 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.)

(Click here to view the Washington, D.C., news conference on May 21, 2001. Click here to view the question and answer period following the formal statements.)

(Click here to view a B-Roll video of clips of the various NOAA research aircraft that fly into hurricanes and for animation of what it's like to fly into hurricanes.)

At a news conference at the Ronald Reagan National Airport near Washington, D.C., NOAA officials said the absence of strong La Niña conditions this year will likely result in a number of storms, but relatively fewer compared to the last three seasons. In 2000, there were 14 named storms, of which eight became hurricanes.

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.

Click images for larger view.
NOAA hurricane trackng chart for year 2000
NOAA tracking chart of year 2000 hurricanes.
NOAA 2001 hurricane season outlook
NOAA 2001 hurricane season outlook.

Scott Gudes, NOAA acting administrator"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.

Prior to the news conference, FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said, "As we look to another hurricane season with an ever-growing population living in vulnerable coastal areas, our charge is clear. FEMA stands ready to provide both the leadership and the necessary technical assistance and guidance to communities as they assume responsibility for becoming more disaster resistant. Preventing the loss of life, minimizing the damage to property from hurricanes is a responsibility that is shared by all."

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of NOAA's National Weather ServiceRetired 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.



Click on images for larger view. Please note: these files are large.
NOAA's Gulfstream IV hurricane research aircraft
NOAA's Gulfstream IV hurricane research aircraft at Washington National Airport, May 21, 2001.
NOAA's WP-3D Orion hurricane research aircraft
NOAA's WP-3D Orion hurricane research aircraft at Washington National Airport, May 21, 2001.

NOAA hurricane hunter air crew
NOAA hurricane hunter air crew who fly NOAA research aircraft into hurricanes.

Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane CenterMax 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 populations."

Hurricane Awareness Week features a new Web site that highlights five topics—one for each day of the week—vital to saving lives and property: Day 1 - Coastal and Marine Hazards; Day 2 - Wind Hazards; Day 3 - Inland Flooding; Day 4 - The Forecast Process and; Day 5 - Disaster Prevention.

The Atlantic hurricane seasons ends Nov. 30. As always, NOAA forecasters will issue an updated hurricane outlook in August.

Relevant Web Sites
Highlights of Hurricane Season 2000

Hurricanes 2000 — Climate summaries and satellite images

Historic Hurricanes

Hurricane Basics

Archived NOAA satellite imagery of historical events

Atlantic Tropical Events 2001 — NOAA satellite imagery

NOAA’s “Hurricane Hunter” Aircraft

Hurricanes: Nature's Greatest Storms


Media Contacts:
Curtis Carey, NOAA's National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 or Dave Miller, NOAA headquarters, (202) 482-6090 or cell phone (202) 329-4030