'Very active' hurricane season ahead

This year's north Atlantic hurricane season will be "very active," spawning eight to 10 hurricanes, the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.

This year's north Atlantic hurricane season will be "very active,"spawning eight to 10 hurricanes, the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.

NOAA'soutlook, published on its website, predicts:

  • There will likely be 13 to 16 named storms, including tropical storms and hurricanes, compared with the 11 named storms seen in an average season.
  • Eight to 10 of this year's named storms will become hurricanes, meaning they will have sustained winds of at least 119 km/h, compared with the annual average of six.
  • Four to six of the hurricanes will reach an intensity of at least Category 3, with sustained winds of at least 178 km/h, though on average each season experiences only two.

The 2006 North Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1.

"Whether we face an active hurricane season, like this year, or a below-normal season, the crucial message for every person is the same: prepare, prepare, prepare," Max Mayfield, director of the administration's National Hurricane Center, said on the organization's website.

"One hurricane hitting where you live is enough to make it a bad season."

2005 update more accurate than early outlook

Last year's earlyhurricane seasonforecast from NOAA failed to foresee that 2005 would be one of the most intense hurricane seasons ever. However, an update issued in mid-August was much more accurate.

It warned that a high number of powerful storms would develop in the Caribbean and along the eastern coast of North America.

"The forecasts that we're seeing are calling for numbers that are about double the average of the past 50 years," Steve Miller of the Canadian Hurricane Centre told CBC News at the time.

"Normally we'd get about 10. This year, the forecast is averaging 20 or even higher."

New Orleans still vulnerable todirect hit

Two weeks later, hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi as a Category 4 storm, sending flood waters gushing over entire neighbourhoods of New Orleans.

The disaster was one of the worst in decades for the United States, killingat least1,747 people as of last week, when more deaths were added to the toll.

Even now, recently repaired levees are not strong enough to protect New Orleans from a direct hit by a Category 3 storm, a team of academics warned in a new report released Monday.

The Independent Levee Investigation Team found fault with how levee repairs were funded leading up to Katrina, and said a piecemeal approach to managing emergency protection was still a problem.

So many storms in 2006, names ran out

Predictions of more storms than usual in 2005 were dead-on. Forecasters ran out of names for the tropical storms and hurricanes, having to dip into the Greek alphabet when the standard alphabetic list of 21 names was exhausted.

At the end of the day, the 2005 North Atlantic season included 28 storms, seven more than the previous record of 21 storms in 1933.

Four of them– Emily, Katrina, Rita and Wilma– reached Category 5, the top level of intensity, with sustained winds of at least 250 km/hat some point in their existence.