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Hurricane Forecast
Above average hurricane activity expected for 2001

Colder temperatures in the Pacific and heavy rains in West Africa led a leading hurricane forecaster to say that this season will be more intense than he predicted in April. 

Colorado State University professor William Gray on Thursday released his updated figures, boosting the number of named storms to 12 from 10, the number of hurricanes to seven from six and the number of intense hurricanes to three from two. 

Gray said that he also believes there is a greater possibility that hurricanes will hit land on the East Coast this year. 
"It just seems to us that things are looking more conducive for hurricanes than they did at the end of March," Gray said Wednesday. 

Those conditions include colder-than-expected temperatures in the Pacific off the west coast of North America and south into the Hawaii area, weakening El Nino. 

El Nino is a warm body of water in the Pacific that produces strong upper winds. The winds move across the Atlantic and rip the tops off forming storms, Gray said. 

Gray, a professor of atmospheric science, said that above-average rainfall in West Africa will fuel the Atlantic storms. 

Another factor is the buildup of warm, salty water flowing to the northern Atlantic. Gray said the saltier water sinks and redistributes energy, which can intensify a hurricane. 

The season's first named storm was reported this week off southeast Texas. Allison dumped up to 12 inches of rain before winding down Wednesday. 

A storm has to have sustained winds of about 40 mph before it gets a name. 

Gray predicted the probability of hurricanes moving inland this season is 50 percent for the East Coast and Florida peninsula, compared with an annual average of 31 percent; and 39 percent for the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, compared with an average of 30 percent. 

Gray said that it is difficult to estimate the landfall probabilities for the small Caribbean land masses but added the chances of a major storm coming ashore are about average. 

Last year there were 14 tropical storms, including eight hurricanes, but most stayed well offshore. But two tropical storms battered northern Florida with high winds and rain, causing $26.8 million in damage but no deaths or injuries. 

The yearly averages from 1959-1990 are 9.3 named storms, 5.8 hurricanes and 2.2 intense hurricanes. 

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but Gray said that the most intense activity is usually from mid-August to mid-October. 

Gray will issue his final predictions Aug. 7. 

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