Forecaster sees nine Atlantic Hurricanes in 2006

MIAMI – A noted U.S. storm forecaster on Wednesday predicted the Atlantic hurricane season will produce nine hurricanes, the same as his previous forecast issued nearly two months ago. William Gray and the Colorado State University forecasting team said the six-month season beginning on Thursday will see 17 tropical storms, of which nine will become hurricanes and five will be “major” hurricanes with sustained winds over 110 miles per hour (177 km per hour).

On April 4, Gray’s team issued the same forecast.

The CSU forecast fell roughly in line with other predictions for the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. government’s climate agency, said last week it expected 13 to 16 tropical storms, with eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes.

Gray’s prediction and those of other forecasters were wildly off the mark last year, which saw a record-shattering 28 storms, including 15 hurricanes. Seven of last year’s were major storms of Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity.

Those hurricanes included Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. It killed about 1,300 people and caused more than $75 billion in damage when it burst the levees in New Orleans, swamping the city.