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The Atlantic Ocean could experience as many as six major hurricanes this summer more powerful than Super Storm Sandy, according the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Super Storm Sandy ravaged the East Coast as a Category 2 hurricane last November. NOAA is predicting three to six hurricanes at Category 3 levels, with sustained winds of 110 miles per hour.
Super Storm Sandy caused $75 billion in damage in late October, the costliest storm since Hurricane Katrina. The storm accounted for at least 147 deaths across the Caribbean to the Eastern Seaboard.
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes.
“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time,” Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA’s acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”
Hurricane season continues to Nov. 30. Factors in favor of a busy season include above average Atlantic and Caribbean ocean temperatures, lower than average pressures and wind shear, and a present multi-decadal pattern of elevated hurricane activity that commenced in 1995 (and expected to last 25-40 years), Sullivan said.
“There are no mitigating factors that would suppress the activity,” said Gerry Bell, lead outlook forecaster. “El Nino is not expected to develop this year. All factors point to an active or very active hurricane season.”
As alarming as these numbers might be, NOAA officials stress they cannot predict the number of hurricanes that will actually strike U.S. soil. The last major hurricane to make landfall in the U.S., Wilma, struck in 2005. Since then, a total of five Category 1 or 2 storms (with winds up to 100 mph) have hit the U.S.
On Monday, NOAA predicted a below-normal hurricane season for the Central Pacific Basin.