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US forecasters see busy rest of hurricane season

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MIAMI (AP) — Exceptionally high ocean temperatures and atmospheric

conditions that support hurricane development will keep the

Atlantic and Caribbean on track for an above-average storm season,

U.S. forecasters said Thursday.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration slightly

upgraded its May outlook, calling for 14 to 19 named tropical

storms, up from a range of 14 to 18.

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That includes the five tropical storms that have formed since the

six-month hurricane season started June 1. It ends Nov. 30 and the

peak period for hurricanes runs from August through

October.

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“We expect considerable activity,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal

hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in

Washington.

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“There is absolutely no reason that people should be complacent,”

Bell said. “Now is the time people really need to make sure they

have their hurricane preparedness plans in place.”

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Tropical storms get named when their top winds reach 39 mph or

higher. NOAA now expects seven to 10 named storms to strengthen

into hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or higher, and three to

five of those hurricanes could become major storms with winds

blowing 111 mph or more.

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In May, forecasters called for six to 10 hurricanes this season.

The seasonal average is 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two

major hurricanes.

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Key climate factors predicted in May continue to boost forecasters’

expectations for an above-average season, Bell said.

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“The atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean are primed for high hurricane

activity during August through October,” Bell said. “Storms through

October will form more frequently and become more intense than

we’ve seen so far this season.”

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Atmospheric and marine conditions indicate a high-activity era that

began in 1995 continues, and ocean temperatures are the third

warmest on record, he said.

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The La Nina weather phenomenon also may redevelop this fall, Bell

said.

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La Nina is an unusual cooling of the Pacific waters near the

equator. It cuts wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical

Atlantic, which gives tropical storms a chance to develop and

strengthen before being ripped apart.

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Forecasters say La Nina helped make the 2010 season one of the

busiest on record with 19 named storms, including 12 hurricanes.

The opposite El Nino phenomenon, which warms Pacific waters near

the equator and increases wind shear over the Atlantic, helps

suppress storm development.

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“The numbers in May reflected the possibility that El Nino could

develop. El Nino has not developed,” Bell said.

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Five tropical storms have developed so far this season.

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The Mexican government reported 22 deaths after Tropical Storm

Arlene came ashore June 30 with heavy rains that caused flooding

and mudslides. Last week, Tropical Storm Don fizzled to a tropical

depression just before crossing the Texas coastline.

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On Thursday, officials urged Florida residents to monitor the

progress of Tropical Storm Emily as it drenched the Caribbean

island shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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The storm was likely to cross eastern Cuba on Friday and might

touch Florida on Saturday, though the projected track would keep

its center offshore, according to the National Hurricane Center in

Miami.

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The last hurricane to make landfall in the United States was Ike in

2008. Though not considered a major hurricane, Ike caused $10

billion in damage in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, making it the

third-costliest storm after Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Andrew

in 1992, according to the hurricane center.

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The last major hurricane to strike the U.S. was Category 3

Hurricane Wilma, which made landfall in Florida in 2005.

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“We’ve been quite lucky in recent years, but that’s no reason to be

complacent,” said Steve Woodward, the Federal Emergency Management

Agency’s deputy assistant administrator for response. “As spring

and summer have taught us, with tornadoes and flooding and the heat

wave, disasters can strike practically anytime and

anywhere.”

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Online:

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NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center: 

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NOAA’s National Hurricane Center: 

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“http://www.hurricanes.gov/” target=

“-blank”>http://www.hurricanes.gov

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