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Date of Issue: April 08, 2009

Hurricane on Gulf coast a definite maybe

In what some local residents might consider not really news, hurricane forecasting experts say Anna Maria Island has a chance of encountering a hurricane or tropical storm during the 2009 Atlantic season.

The Houston-based Weather Research Center predicted recently that, for the 2009 hurricane season, the eastern Gulf coast region has a 70 percent chance of experiencing landfall of a tropical storm or hurricane, while Florida’s west coast has a 60 percent probability.

 “We expect at least seven named storms with four of these tropical storms intensifying into hurricanes this season,” Weather Center president Jill Hasling said in a press release.

At least one of those four hurricanes will be a category 3 or higher storm, the center predicted.

 “We’re forecasting that the season will continually elevate with tropical storm activity and we’re predicting that August, September and October will be the most likely months for extremely active situations,” she concluded.

According to Hasling, the Orbital Cyclone Strike Index forecasts “heavy activity for the Atlantic” during the upcoming season. The OCSI has an 88 percent accuracy rate, she said.

The Colorado State University hurricane center’s 2009 hurricane forecast doubled the OCSI prognostication. CSU’s prediction said that there would be 14 named storms this season, with seven reaching hurricane intensity. Of those seven, three will reach category 3 or higher in strength.

The CSU prediction said the Florida peninsula has only a 39 percent chance of experiencing a direct hit from a named storm.

But Phillip Klotzbach of CSU’s hurricane research department admitted that CSU’s predictions have been somewhat off the mark in recent years.

“Our forecasts have not been entirely accurate, but we are forecasting an above-average season” of storm activity in the Atlantic, he said.

Klotzbach said this year’s prediction is based upon a number of factors, including the absence of the El Nino weather effect this season.

A National Weather Service spokesperson said the service would not release its 2009 Atlantic hurricane season forecast until mid-May.

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