NOAA Releases 2009 Hurricane Outlook
Government forecasters predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with one to three major storms reaching as high as category five strength and as many as 14 named tropical storms. Despite the predictions, administration officials warned Americans to prepare now for the 2009 season, which starts June 1.
"Today more than 157 million people live in coastal areas of the U.S. and some 35 million live in areas most threatened by Atlantic hurricanes. Having an accurate and advanced warning is vital for those in harm’s way," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at a news conference announcing the hurricane predictions. Locke was joined by NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read and other government and military officials.
The initial outlook calls for a 50 percent likelihood of a near-normal season, a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season. NOAA will issue a revised seasonal forecast in early August.
The government's traditional kick off to the hurricane season mostly served as a reminder about the need to develop emergency preparedness and evacuation plans.
"Think about it, our country literally spends hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars … to give you the best possible forecast," Fugate said.
Hurricanes will make landfall in the United States. Hurricanes will destroy homes. People need to heed the preparedness message and be ready to act," he said.
Officials took several questions regarding the government's own preparations for hurricanes. Fugate said his agency's performance will rely on the strength of its partnerships with state and local emergency response personnel.
Lubchenco said NOAA has what it needs to track this year's storms, but noted President Obama's proposed 2010 budget includes requests that would help forecasters better determine the intensity of tropical storms, building on their current ability to predict storm tracks.
"We can always make very good use of additional aircraft and additional instruments. It’s always a balancing act that we have the minimum that we need, understanding that more could always be put to good use," she said.
Officials also provided tours of government and military aircraft that fly into and around tropical storm systems and feed weather data back to the National Hurricane Center in Miami for storm analysis and forecasting.
Watch video of the event above (including Locke's verbal goof) and check back soon for the video of those aircraft tours. Also -- for the dirty weather details, check The Post's Capital Weather Gang blog.
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