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Forecastors lower number of storms
Hurricane season in danger time
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MIAMI — Government forecasters minimally reduced their expectations for an above-average Atlantic hurricane season Thursday, saying up to nine hurricanes and up to 16 tropical storms are expected to form.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintained its prediction that three to five of the hurricanes will be major storms of Category 3 strength or stronger.
The revised forecast trimmed by just one the upper-level predictions for the number of tropical storms and hurricanes expected. Forecasters said 13 to 16 tropical storms were expected, down from their May prediction of 13 to 17. Seven to nine are now expected to become hurricanes, down from the original estimate of up to 10.
Despite the slight reductions, NOAA said atmospheric and oceanic conditions have increased forecasters' belief that the season will be more active than normal. On average, there are 10.3 named Atlantic storms and 6.2 hurricanes, 2.7 of them major.
Federal forecasters' move Thursday follows that of Colorado State University hurricane researcher William Gray, who slightly lowered his own forecast last week.
Gray's initial projection called for 17 named storms and nine hurricanes, five of them intense. He revised it to 15 named storms and eight hurricanes, four of them intense.
After the battering by storms Katrina and Rita in 2005 there were widespread fears last summer of another powerful storm striking, but the unexpected development of El Nino — the warming of Pacific Ocean waters that affects wind patterns and tends to result in fewer Atlantic storms — helped dampen conditions.
No destructive storms hit the U.S. last year, but forecasters warned this year that El Nino is over, which could prompt conditions that encourage the development of additional storms.
So far, the season has been tame, but August typically marks the start of the most frenetic months of Atlantic weather.
Just as federal forecasters announced their initial seasonal projections in late May, Subtropical Storm Andrea developed about 150 miles northeast of Daytona Beach. The storm skirted the southern Atlantic coast but caused minimal damage.
Tropical Storm Barry formed on June 1, the first official day of hurricane season, but ended being more celebrated than despised. It brought some needed rain to a drought-parched Florida.
Tropical Storm Chantal formed last month, but was similarly short-lived.
Hurricane season ends Nov. 30, but the strange season of 2005 ran over into early January, as well as using up all the planned alphabetical names, forcing storm watchers to switch to the Greek alphabet to continue naming storms.
Last year, there were 10 tropical storms in the Atlantic and just two made landfall in the United States.
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