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Emergency Officials Ready for Hurricane Season

April 12, 2001|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — With one leading forecaster predicting 10 tropical storms, including a half-dozen hurricanes, emergency management officials gathered Wednesday to plan for the upcoming hurricane season.

"We can change the impact of disasters. We, as a nation, can reduce the loss of life . . . by taking effective action now," Joe Allbaugh, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the opening session of the 2001 National Hurricane Conference.

It is the job of government, the private sector and all Americans to learn about the threats to their lives and homes and be prepared to take action if needed, he said.

"We do have a big challenge to convince the public of the dangers of hurricanes," National Weather Service Director John J. Kelly told the gathering.

William M. Gray of Colorado State University has increased his forecast for storms this season, predicting 10 tropical storms, of which six will be hurricanes, two of them intense storms.

That's one more storm and one more hurricane than Gray forecast in his preliminary outlook in December and would make it about an average hurricane season. Last year there were 14 tropical storms, including eight hurricanes, but most stayed well offshore.

The government's National Hurricane Center in Miami is expected to issue its hurricane forecast in May.

The rapidly increasing population along the East and Gulf coasts means many more people live in harm's way when hurricanes threaten, and the vast majority of those people have never experienced such a storm, noted Scott Gudes, acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

By 2010 there will be 73 million Americans living in hurricane-prone regions, Gudes said.

But despite improvements in recent years, predicting three days ahead where a hurricane will make landfall is still subject to error by as much as 200 miles. That's half the error of 20 years ago but still poses serious problems for officials making decisions about evacuation.

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