Hurricane forecaster predicts average '09 season

By ESTES THOMPSON
Associated Press Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The 2009 hurricane season will be less active than last year's flurry of storms, and there's less than a 50 percent chance that a hurricane will hit the southeastern U.S., a researcher said Thursday.

On the Gulf Coast, however, there is a 70 percent chance a hurricane will make landfall.

The N.C. State University team's forecast of 11-14 named storms for the Atlantic season, including six to eight hurricanes, was generally in line with predictions from Colorado State University researchers. They called for an average season with 12 named storms, including six hurricanes - two of them major.

Last year was one of the most active hurricane season's on record, with 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, forming in the Atlantic. Five of the eight hurricanes were at least Category 3 strength.

The forecast from the N.C. State team led by Professor Lian Xie said there was a 45 percent chance a hurricane would hit the southeast coast and a 40 percent chance a major hurricane would hit the Gulf Coast.

"We anticipate the overall activity of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season to be close to that of an average season seen in the past 20 years," said Xie, whose team evaluated 100 years of hurricane positions and intensities along with weather patterns and sea surface temperatures.

Last year's forecast was for a slightly more active season than average with 13 to 15 named storms, he said.

"I would also like to emphasize that long-range hurricane predictions, although they have shown some skill in the past, are still not a precise science," he said.

The federal government will release its forecast May 21.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.


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