Chris Provides Wake-Up Call; Experts Revise Hurricane Forecast

Aug. 3, 2006 – With the remnants of Tropical Storm Chris still passing through the area, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency Director Harold Baker said Thursday that the storm should serve as a wake-up call to residents who aren't prepared for this year's hurricane season.
"There's more to come," he said, noting that Chris arrived a bit earlier than most hurricane season storms.
He urged residents to get their hurricane security kits in order if they haven't done so. He said residents must be prepared to stand on their own for at least 72 hours after the storm passes.
Baker said that Chris caused no damage, but residents were lucky because the storm could have slowed down and intensified.
Meteorologist Walter Snell at the National Weather Service in San Juan pointed out that Chris could have altered course, sending it directly over the Virgin Islands instead of going north. The territory got away with just some heavy rain and strong winds.
However, he said that getting ready for Chris as it approached was a bit late because people should have their preparations in order way before a storm is on the way.
"Chris was a good exercise," he said.
Schnell said Thursday's rainy weather should stick around for the better part of Thursday, but he predicted clearer skies for Friday with a 20 to 30 percent chance of showers.
Meanwhile, the hurricane prediction team of Philip Klotzbach and William Gray at Colorado State University Thursday came out with good news. They reduced the number of named storms they expect to form during the 2006 season to 15. Of that number, the team thinks that seven will become hurricanes, with three reaching intense status with winds of 111 mph or greater.
On May 31, the day before the official start to hurricane season, they put the number at 17 named storms, with nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.
"We're not reducing the number of hurricanes because we had only two named storms in late July. It's a general erosion of a number of factors," Gray said in a news release.
He said the tropical Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures are not quite as warm, tropical Atlantic surface pressure is not quite as low, the eastern equatorial Pacific has warmed some, and trade winds in the in the tropical Atlantic are slightly stronger.
The long-term yearly average stands at 9.6 named storms, with 5.9 of them becoming hurricanes and 2.3 reaching intense status.
For the past several years, Gray and Klotzbach made predictions for August, September and October.
"The same factors that make individual months active or inactive are often not the same factors that can make the entire season active or inactive," Klotzbach said.
The team forecast four named storms, three hurricanes and one intense hurricane in August. For September, they think five named storms, three hurricane and two intense hurricanes. They predict two named storms, one hurricane and no intense hurricanes in October.
While Gray and Klotzbach do not predict the probability of a hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean, they do for the mainland. The team warned of a considerably higher-than-average probability of at least one intense hurricane making landfall in the United States this hurricane season. They put the probability at 73 percent, compared to a long-term average of 52 percent.
Gray said that last year's record-breaking hurricane season was unusual. By this time last year, two intense hurricanes had already formed in the Atlantic Basin. When Hurricane Season 2005 ended on Nov. 30, the tally hit 26 named storms, with 14 becoming hurricanes and seven falling into the intense category.
"For many years, we're going to be studying why last year was such a freak year," Gray said.
However, he suggested that the current active Atlantic Basin hurricane cycle could last another 15 to 20 years.
He also said that population growth in coastal areas will increase the level of hurricane damage.
As for Chris, at 2 p.m. it was located 225 miles east-southeast of Grand Turk Island in the Turks and Caicos. Forecasters think it will become a depression later Thursday.
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