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Fewer hurricanes forecast for ’09

There will be fewer Atlantic hurricanes this season than in 2008, and fewer even than predicted only last December, according to a forecast released Tuesday.

Colorado State University’s hurricane forecast team’s latest prediction calls for 12 named storms, including six hurricanes. Of those six, two are expected to be major hurricanes with maximum wind speeds of 111 mph or greater. The first of the storms in the Atlantic, which are named in alphabetical order, will be Ana.

In 2008, there were 16 named storms including eight hurricanes, five of them major.

Colorado State’s December forecast predicted 14 named storms for this year. Yet even the revised forecast indicates a slightly-above-average season. Since 1950, a typical Atlantic hurricane season has had 10 named storms, six of them hurricanes and two of those major hurricanes.

The team will issue another update on June 2. Others will be released as the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, progresses.

“Based on our latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 54 percent, compared with the last-century average of 52 percent,” said lead forecaster Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State team.

The prediction was good news to Mary Jo Naschke, spokeswoman for Galveston, Texas, a city of 57,000 that was devastated by Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13.

“Optimism is epidemic here because we don’t have any other choice,” Naschke said.

The recovery work and rebuilding that is underway, however, won’t slow downbecause of the more optimistic prediction.

“We are feverishly working to get all our repairs done before hurricane season,” she said.

The team began its seasonal forecasts in 1984. They are used by insurance companies, emergency managers and the news media to prepare Americans for the season’s likely hurricane threat.

In a USA TODAY analysis of the team’s April forecasts since 2000, CSU has under-forecast the number of named tropical storms and hurricanes four times, over-forecast the number twice, and been almost right (within two storms) three times.

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