National Hurricane Center forecasters warn that a trend toward greater numbers of storms and stronger storms may last for years. If they’re right, the southeast United States could suffer through many more vicious hurricane seasons.
The United States is in a pattern in which it isn’t at all unusual that the number of Category 3 and above hurricanes doubled in 2004, according to Randy McKee, head of the National Weather Service in Mobile, Ala. He said the pattern started in the ’90s and that it may be a number of years before it plays out.
In an average year, 10 tropical storms result in about six hurricanes, which include two to three major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or greater.
With preliminary damage estimates from the Insurance Information Institute ranging near $14 billion, Charley could end up as the second-costliest storm in U.S. history.
Hurricane Ivan, the fourth major hurricane of the season, fluctuated during its life and reached Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Scale several times, with top winds of 165 mph, making it the season’s most powerful storm. Preliminary unadjusted estimates put Ivan’s damages near $13 billion, which may rank it as the third-costliest storm to hit the United States.
The late-season system brought to 15 the number of named tropical storms that formed in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Nine storms became hurricanes this year, including six major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center in Miami.
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