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Scientists expect a busy 2010 hurricane season

DAVID TEWES

By DAVID TEWES
April 7, 2010 at 5:02 p.m.
Updated April 6, 2010 at 11:07 p.m.

Hurricane Claudette beard down on Port O'Connor on July 15, 2003. Claudette was the last hurricane to hit the Victoria area.

Hurricane season cranks up June 1, and at least one forecaster is expecting a busier-than-usual season.

Researchers at Colorado State University are forecasting 15 named storms in 2010, which is about 50 percent above average. Four of those storms could become major hurricanes.

A storm is named when winds reach 39 mph, and it's considered a major hurricane when winds reach 111 mph or higher.

"Based on our latest forecast, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline is 69 percent compared with the last-century average of 52 percent," said Robert Gray with the university. "While patterns may change before the start of hurricane season, we believe current conditions warrant concern for an above-average season."

John Metz with the National Weather Service said he can't comment on forecasts from other agencies.

But he noted that the last major hurricane to strike the Middle Texas Coast was Celia, which moved inland just north of Corpus Christi 40 years ago.

"Statistically, I guess you could say we're due for a hurricane on the Middle Texas Coast," he said. "But that doesn't mean we're going to have a storm. We've gone some long periods without storms."

The university forecast is based in part on the prediction that El Nino, a Pacific Ocean current, will dissipate this summer. It's also based on the fact that water temperatures in the Atlantic, which fuel the storms, are above normal.

The cold fronts that made this past winter colder than usual have played a role in the warmer water temperatures, Metz said. Those fronts have had the effect of "bottling up" the warm water in the tropical Atlantic, he said.

"Water temperatures on the Texas Coast have warmed rapidly," he said. "We were in the upper 50s and now we're in the upper 70s."

Water temperatures of 80 degrees or higher are considered optimal in helping with storm formation.

The National Weather Service won't release its forecast for the hurricane season until May.

"We still have to be careful when we talk about season predictions and the message to local citizens in the Victoria area," Metz said. "The forecast doesn't really have much real weight in our day-to-day planning of activities."

Even a relative quiet season doesn't mean the Crossroads won't be hit by a devastating storm, he said.

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