Officials Lower Predictions for Atlantic Hurricane Season

The 2006 Atlantic hurricane season should be slightly less active than originally predicted, federal forecasters said Tuesday.

Forecasters now expect there to be 12 to 15 named storms and seven to nine hurricanes, the National Hurricane Center and other National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agencies said.

Three or four could be major hurricanes with sustained winds of at least 111 mph, forecasters said.

Government scientists made their first prediction in May, saying the season could produce 13 to 16 named storms, and eight to 10 hurricanes, four to six of which could become major.

There have been only three tropical storms and no hurricanes so far, but August through October are typically the most active months of the season.

Forecasters warned coastal residents not to let their guard down.

"Preventing the loss of life and minimizing property damage from hurricanes are responsibilities shared by all," said Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center. "Remember, one hurricane hitting your neighborhood is enough to make it a bad season."

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Federal Emergency Management Agency director R. David Paulison, who joined NOAA officials speaking from Washington, D.C., said his agency is working closely with state governments and would not wait for a state's relief efforts to fail before stepping in with federal support after a hurricane.

Officials revised their forecast because of wetter than predicted conditions over the Pacific Ocean, which forced slightly stronger upper-level winds over the Caribbean, hurricane center meteorologist Christopher Landsea said. Those winds can rip apart storms and stop them from becoming hurricanes.

Water temperatures in the Atlantic also are not as high as first expected, forecasters said.

The revision follows that of forecasters at Colorado State University, who updated their forecast Thursday. They reduced their storm estimate from nine hurricanes to seven, and said that three instead of five of the storms could be major. The forecasters initially had called for 17 named storms but now predict 15.

The two forecasts still would make this season busier than long-term averages, but in line with an increase in the Atlantic that started in 1995. Federal forecasters say warmer waters, more moisture and other conditions have been responsible for that increase, which could last for another decade or longer.

Between 1995 and 2005, the Atlantic has averaged 15 named storms, just over eight named hurricanes and four major hurricanes, according to the hurricane center. Long-term averages are 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major ones.

The 2005 hurricane season broke records with 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes and seven major ones. Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history, killing more than 1,500 and wiping out parts of the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

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