MIAMI -- The
destructive and record-setting 2005 Atlantic hurricane season wound
to its official end -- at least on paper -- but no one is writing
off this volatile season yet.
hurricane has been known to hit the U.S., Mexico or the Caribbean
between Dec. 1 and May 31, officials at the National Hurricane
Center said that if conditions are right, a tropical storm could
brew and form this month.
If very warm
ocean waters and favorable wind patterns are right, we could have
another storm. These factors accounted for many storms this season,
said Gerry Bell, head of the Climate Prediction Center of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA).
Were in a cycle
that began in 1995 and could last 20 years, Bell said.
On Dec. 2,
Hurricane Epsilon churned through the central Atlantic, generating rough
surf in Bermuda, well to the southeast.
like tree branches this year. Including Epsilon, the season
produced 26 named storms, surpassing the 1933 record of
Of the 26 storms,
14 were hurricanes, and seven of them reached Category 3 status
(winds above 111 mph). Katrina, Rita and Wilma were all Category 5
storms with 155-plus mph winds.
Next year could
be just as bad, warned Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., a NOAA
administrator. Historical trends say the atmospheric patterns and
water temperatures are likely to force another active season upon
Arlene got the ball rolling on June 8, prompting watches in
was nothing compared with the wrath of Dennis, a Category 4 menace
in July that flooded Haiti, closed Jamaicas airports and wiped out
power in the Florida Panhandle.
were tropical storms Bret, which damaged 3,000 homes in Veracruz,
and Cindy, which pelted Louisiana.
Within days of
Dennis, Hurricane Emily pummeled parts of Grenada, still in
recovery mode from Ivans visit in September 2004, and forced
tourists in Mexicos Yucatan region to evacuate glitzy play palaces
for shelter in gymnasiums.
season was not even two months old when forecaster William Gray at
Colorado State University revised his forecast from 15 named storms
Not every storm
was a blockbuster. Franklin fizzled over the Atlantic in July, and
Gert had a three-day shelf life.
disappeared over the North Atlantic. Irene roamed the Atlantic for
two weeks and never made landfall. Jose came and went.
slamming southeastern Florida on Aug. 25, Hurricane Katrina
announced herself in the Gulf of Mexico with shrieking 175 mph
winds, blasting into the record books as it smashed the levees of
New Orleans and tore through Gulf Coast plantations on Aug.
At last count,
Katrina had killed 1,300 people and had caused at least $125
billion worth of damage -- although the tallies are by no means
final -- making the storm the worst natural disaster to hit the
Prior to that,
1992s Hurricane Andrew was the costliest, causing $26.5 billion in
Lee barely got ink; Maria headed east to Norway, where one woman
died in a mudslide. Nate skirted Bermuda; Ophelia pounded North
Carolinas beaches; and Philippe was harmless.
Then came Rita on
Sept. 17, aimed squarely at the Florida Keys; Houston and
Galveston, Texas; southwestern Louisiana; and, for a scary moment,
New Orleans. Rita prompted an exodus of 1.8 million people from
Houston, the largest mandatory evacuation in U.S.
Stan, a Category
1 storm, emerged five days later and turned toward Guatemala,
Tammy flooded southern Georgia on Oct. 6 as Hurricane Vince formed
in the Atlantic and made landfall in southwestern Spain, prompting
incredulity among forecasters.
But it was not
over yet. Up rose Wilma on Oct. 17, marking the first time that
three Category 5 hurricanes had formed in the Atlantic basin in one
She was a doozy.
Wilma rapidly strengthened into one of the most intense storms
ever, lashing Cuba and Central America before bearing down on
Mexicos Yucatan peninsula.
again shuffled from luxury digs to spartan shelters as Wilma
battered Cozumel and Cancun for two days with rain and 140 mph
Wilmas next stop
was storm-weary Florida. She made landfall on Oct. 24 on the West
Coast, knifed across the state and tore into Fort Lauderdale.
Greek to us
Alpha, the first
storm to get its name from the Greek alphabet, became the seasons
22nd tropical storm on Oct. 22 -- the most since record keeping
began in 1851.
Alpha dumped rain
in the Dominican Republic, Beta did the same in Central America,
Gamma was responsible for two deaths in the Grenadines and Delta
dawned in late November, headed for Africa.
pointed out that the accuracy of predictions has improved
dramatically in 10 years. Weve cut our errors by 50%.
Yet, even with
good forecasts, Katrina showed us that not all people are able to
evacuate, said David L. Johnson, director of the National Weather
We have only six
months to prepare for the 2006 season.
reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].