Forecasters issue new prediction this morning

Bridgetown, Barbados, May 31, 2006 – Tighten up, batten down. Here comes the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane Season.

If forecasters in their latest seasonal forecast, issued this morning, are correct, the Atlantic is going to be nearly twice as active as an average hurricane year.

This means that this year could see 17 named storms of which nine will become hurricanes with winds between 74 and 110 miles per hour and five of those will strengthen even further to become “major” and destructive hurricanes with winds topping 111 miles per hour.

The names of the storms this year will be: Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William. Should they run out of English names, the Greek alphabet with be used.

The hurricane season lasts for six months each year, running from June 1 to November 30. The forecast issued by Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray of the Colorado State University this morning also predicts that the 17 tropical storms to be formed will last for 85 days – that nearly half of the 182 days of the season. Hurricanes are expected to be active for 45 days and the intense or major hurricanes for 13 days.

Climatology of these systems show that in June and July cyclones tend to form at a higher latitude – in the Gulf of Mexico or around the area of The Bahamas. In August to October, they tend to form in the Atlantic and that’s when the Caribbean island chain would be most at risk. Then from mid-October to the end of November formation tends to occur further north again. During the six month period the most active part is the 60-day window from august 15 to October 15.

The forecasters believe that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the Caribbean.

Major donors met in Barbados last week to discuss incorporating disaster risk reduction into national development strategies. The meeting was hosted by the Caribbean Development Bank.

Among the messages from the meeting was that Caribbean government must bear disaster risk reduction in mind when they restart the reconstruction process after suffering a disaster.

Project advisor with the Bureau of Crisis Prevention and Recovery with the United Nations Development Programme, Jennifer Worrell, said that “all over the world in the post-disaster period there is an urgency to get back to normal and there is a rush to rebuild and we often reconstruct the risk that we there before”.

Grenada, which is the Caribbean country that has been badly battered this century, is taking no chances this year. With intimate knowledge of Hurricane Ivan’s devastating impact on September 7, 2004, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell told all Grenadians in a nationwide address that they cannot possible now think that Grenada lies outside of the hurricane belt.

“Without a doubt, we are our Country‚Äôs first line of defense and preparedness starts with each and every one of us –  at our homes, in our churches, schools and communities at large,” he said as he officially opened Hurricane Awareness Week whose title this year is ‘Preparedness starts with you’.

“We cannot allow ourselves to be passive recipients of death and destruction caused by the impact of a hazard.  While it is important for us as a Nation to be able to mount an adequate response mechanism, we have to focus on comprehensive disaster management plans which include activities such as Mitigation, Prevention and Preparedness.”

Dr Mitchell noted that since Hurricane Ivan there had been a “significant improvement” in the overall attitude to preparation however he urged that there be early planning. He said that it was important that all Grenadians should work together to ensure that even if they cannot prevent the hazard, they could at least be in a position to reduce its negative impact.

Hurricane Ivan struck Grenada September 7, 2004 and left EC$2.2 billion in damage (EC$2.70 = US$1).  Despite this impact, the economy is set to grow this year for the first time after the disaster.(

See also: UPDATE: Three agencies forecasting active season