Outlook improves for this hurricane season

By Gay Nagle Myers

MIAMI -- It's that time of year when the Weather Channel outdistances even "the Osbornes" in popularity.

Hurricane forecaster William Gray, a professor at Colorado State University, called for 11 storms to reach at least tropical storm status this season, with six becoming hurricanes and two of them major hurricanes, with winds topping at least 111 mph.

And that's the good news. Gray's December forecast had called for 13, eight and four, respectively, which is what is predicted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Last year, 19 tropical storms formed. Several dumped heavy rains but did no major damage in the Caribbean.

Max Mayfield, NHC director, warned about "hurricane amnesia."

"A lot of people have not experienced the core of a hurricane. We cannot afford to let our guard down," Mayfield said.

Several Caribbean hotel firms, including Sandals, SuperClubs and Wyndham Resorts, as well as many individual properties once again offer guarantees for vacationers whose trips are disrupted or canceled by hurricanes.

Agent commissions are protected on the bookings.

The guarantees take the form of replacement stays that match the duration and room category of the original trip.

The sixth annual Bahamas Weather Conference at Atlantis on Paradise Island drew more than 100 broadcast meteorologists from major North American television stations, who heard reports on climate changes, evacuation logistics and building codes.

The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the Hurricane Hunters, provided perspective on past storms.

The squadron has flown directly into hurricanes since 1944 to track storms' intensity and direction.

One goal of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, which hosted the conference, was to encourage accurate and timely information regarding hurricanes.

Another was to expose on-air weathermen to the geography of the region.

The six-month Atlantic Basin hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.

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