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No intense hurricanes this year, forecaster predicts

American hurricane expert William Gray has again downgraded his forecast for the 2006 Atlantic storm season, predicting one more hurricane and two more named storms but no intense hurricanes.

American hurricane expert William Gray has again downgraded his forecast for the 2006 Atlantic storm season, predicting one more hurricane andtwo more named storms but no intense hurricanes.

The new report released Tuesday calls for a hurricane season that is significantly calmer than those seen in recent years, with a total of six hurricanes among the 2006 season's 11 named storm systems.

Gray and fellow Colorado State University researcher Philip Klotzbach cited El Nino conditions for the reduced number of storms.

"August was inactive, but September had above-average activity," Klotzbach said. "We expect October to have below-average activity largely due to developing El Nino conditions in the central and eastern Pacific. November activity in El Nino years is very rare."

The long-term average for the June-through-November Atlantic hurricane season is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes, the forecasters said.

However, 2005 saw the birth of a whopping 28 named storms, and this year's forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for 13 to 16 named storms.

In the past two years alone, the researchers said, 13 major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin, and seven struck the U.S. coast, including the devastating Hurricane Katrina.

By contrast, between 1995 and 2003, only three major hurricanes hit land.

So far this season, the Atlantic basin has seen nine named storms and five hurricanes, the latest of them Isaac, which broke up off Newfoundland lateMonday afternoon.

"Despite the lower predictions, residents living along the U.S. coastline should always be prepared for major storms," Gray said.