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October May Bring Above-Average Hurricane Activity, Forecasters Say

Oct. 1, 2008 — With two full months left to go until the official end of the 2008 hurricane season on Nov. 30, Colorado State University hurricane forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray issued their October-only prediction Wednesday.
"We expect the month of October to be quite active," Klotzbach said. "We continue to observe low sea-level pressures and warm sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic. A combination of these two factors typically leads to an active October."
Additionally, neutral El Nino conditions continue in the tropical Pacific, so they don't anticipate that an El Nino will reduce October activity.
They predict October will have three named storms, with two of the three storms becoming hurricanes. Klotzbach and Gray expect one of those hurricanes to reach major status, with winds more than 111 mph. Overall, the forecast team expects activity to be nearly twice the activity of the average October.
"We predict that October will be quite active based on climate signals through September," Gray said. "There has been a strong clustering of hurricane activity around mid July and late August-early September. We think we are now entering a new period of heightened activity that is likely to go for another two to three weeks."
When the Colorado State team updated its seasonal prediction Aug. 5, Klotzbach and Gray expected a total of 17 named storms during the 2008 hurricane season. They thought nine would become hurricanes, with five reaching intense hurricane status with winds of 111 mph or more.
Through September, there were 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. Overall, hurricane activity through September is about 155 percent of the long-period average for September.
Three named storms forming during a very active July. They were Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly. Bertha became the longest-lived July storm on record, while Hurricane Dolly made landfall in south Texas as a Category 2 hurricane.
August had slightly above-average activity, due largely to Hurricane Gustav, which became a major hurricane in the northwest Caribbean late in August and made landfall in central Louisiana Sept. 1.
September also had slightly above-average activity. Several storms formed during the early part of the month, with Hurricane Ike the most notable. Ike battered the Caribbean before slamming into the eastern Texas coast as a Category 2 hurricane. Hanna and Kyle also reached hurricane strength during September.
Don't let down your guard, said Mark Walters, V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency director.
"Remember Lenny," Walters said, referring to the November 1999 hurricane that came from the west — an unusual direction, since most hurricanes hit from the east.
Hurricanes that form this time of year often do so closer to the Caribbean than early-season hurricanes. They tend to form way out in the Atlantic, giving residents lots of time to watch them blow. Residents need to be even more vigilant, because a hurricane can spring up suddenly, Walters said.
Should the warning to evacuate go out from vulnerable areas, Walters urged residents to take heed.
VITEMA remains on alert, Walters said, with emergency responders meeting regularly to ensure the territory is ready should one hit.
Gray has been forecasting hurricanes at Colorado State University for 25 years. Several years ago, he began turning the job over to Klotzbach, but still remains active in the program.
In December, the team will issue its first prediction for the 2009 hurricane season.
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