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Brace for another active hurricane season, forcast says
By Jeff Duncan Staff writer

The upcoming hurricane season will be almost twice as active as in normal years, and the odds that another major storm will make landfall along the Gulf Coast are about 50-50, scientists predicted in a report Tuesday.

The June-to-November season is expected to produce 17 named storms, well above the average of 10, with nine of them spinning into hurricanes and five of those devloping into major storms, according to a forecast by Colorado State University scientists Philip Klotzbach and William Gray.

As bad as the news sounds, it's still better than recent years. Four major hurricanes made landfall in both 2004 and 2005, the latter of which proved to be the most costly and destructive year ever.

"We're forceasting a very, very active season, about twice that in an average season. However, we don't expect to see as many major storms as we had in 2005," Klotzbach said. "Hopefully, we get back to being lucky again."

The prediction likely won't calm the nerves of storm-weary New Orleanians, many of whom are still gutting their homes or forming renovation plans while Army Corps of Engineers officials scramble to fortify the city's crippled hurricane protection system.

The 2005 season produced a record 15 hurricanes and 27 named storms, including Katrina and Rita which devasted the Gulf Coast from Alabama to southwestern Louisiana. Two other major storms -- Dennis and Wilma -- also made landfall.

The 2004 season was just as active, with major storms Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne causing millions in damages along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Scientists attibute the higher-than-normal landfall rate in those years to upper-air currents over the Atlantic that helped push storms toward the mainland. Klotzbach said its unlikely that as many major hurricanes will make landfall this year. He noted that in the previous six years, from 1998 to 2003, only three of 32 major hurricanes in the region made landfall.

"We went from being very, very lucky to being very unlucky," Klotzbach said.

The forecast released Tuesday agrees with the Colorado team's December outlook and parallels that of a March forecast by Accuweather scientists.