MIAMI -- The Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which officially
begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, could be a rough one, with
stronger and longer-lasting storms in the Caribbean and along the
East Coast, government forecasters said.
They predicted an "above average" hurricane season with 11 or
more named storms, seven of which will develop into hurricanes --
three of them major.Beryl, Ernesto blowing in soon?
MIAMI -- If your name is Beulah, Georges, Hugo, Inez,
Lennie or Marilyn, don't look for it on any tropical storm
...Once a storm has caused great damage, the offending name is
stricken and replaced. Until 1978, hurricanes were named solely
after women. Men's names were added to the Pacific storm lists that
year and to Atlantic storm lists in 1979.
...Lists are recycled every six years, unless certain names have
been retired. Thus, the 1995 list, minus Luis, Marilyn, Opal and
Roxanne, reappears in 2001.
...The 1998 season spawned Georges and Mitch, devastating storms
whose infamous names have been stricken from the 2004 list. Look
for Gaston and Matthew instead.
...The lineup this year:
...Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon,
Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Keith, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty,
Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie and William.
In a major hurricane, maximum sustained winds top more than 110
mph, and are usually accompanied by tidal surges, flooding and
heavy roof and foliage damage.
The weather phenomenon called La Nina, which produces cooler
than average temperatures in the Pacific, continues to have a
significant influence on weather conditions and hurricane
forecasts, said D. James Baker, under secretary for oceans and
atmosphere at the Department of Commerce.
The 1999 season produced five major hurricanes, including Floyd
which produced high winds in the Out Islands of the Bahamas and
severe flooding in the Carolinas in September.
This year the remnants of La Nina, as well as warmer than normal
Atlantic Ocean temperatures, are conditions that are "ripe for
hurricane activity," Baker said.
That is exactly the kind of forecast that concerns officials at
the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
James Witt, director, said a recent poll showed a lack of
preparedness in communities vulnerable to hurricanes.
"There's still enormous work to be done to help people
understand specific steps to safeguard lives, homes and
communities," Witt said.
The new poll is part of the National Hurricane Survival
Initiative, a first-of-its-kind public service campaign to educate
residents along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast about hurricane
Another initiative is a workshop sponsored by the Weather
Channel and the American Meteorological Society June 6 and 7 in
Washington to focus on hurricane preparedness and response
Government representatives, forecasters and industry leaders
will examine measures to ensure the dissemination of accurate
No one is taking chances this year.
Since building codes in the U.S. Virgin Islands were
significantly improved after Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, "the
territory has avoided any significant structural damage from
hurricanes," according to Rafael Jackson, acting tourism
The USVI has a Hurricane Readiness program in conjunction with
the Department of Tourism, Virgin Islands Territory Emergency
Management Agency, government agencies and hotels.
"We do take storm threats seriously, but we believe we are as
prepared as a destination can be to withstand significant damage if
a hurricane hits our islands," Jackson said.
The USVI measures reflect what has taken place on many islands
in the hurricane belt.
Puerto Rico's Rapid Response Plan, developed after Hurricane
Georges in 1998, is designed to disseminate relevant information to
media, travel agents, wholesalers and the public quickly.
In cooperation with the Bahamas Hotel Association, many of the
islands' hotels have instituted the Hurricane Hotel Policy, which
guarantees refunds to visitors who have to cancel due to a
The Bahamas hosted the fourth Weather Conference in Nassau in
April for more than 90 broadcast meteorologists from North
Topics included tracking Caribbean storms, regional geography,
safety procedures and storm reporting.
New measures are in place on St. Maarten, which was battered by
Lenny in 1999 and still has properties closed.
These include the designation of safe harbors that can withstand
When a storm threatens St. Maarten, officials will cut off
electricity before the storm reaches the island to insure there
will be no live wires if power lines are downed.
David Hernandez, U.S. tourism director for Antigua and Barbuda,
said new building codes and evacuation procedures "have
strengthened our tourism infrastructure. We have faced quite a few
storms in the past few years and we are well prepared."
After Hurricane Gilbert tore through Cancun and Cozumel in 1988,
Mexico created a Civil Protection Committee to develop evacuation
procedures, according to Ana Mari Irabien, Cancun Convention and
Florida officials have improved the state's disaster response
plan as a result of recent damage from both hurricanes and
Visit Florida, the state's public-private tourist promotion
organization, now coordinates with the Florida Emergency Operations
Center to disseminate storm information.
The state's Web site, www.flausa.com, displays a special icon that links to
Henry Magenheim, Kimberly Scholz and Jorge Sidron
contributed to this report.