Wednesday, April 2, 1998
Mike Arellano (713) 529-3076
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1998 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook: Florida may see a stormy season

HOUSTON - With a non-tropical weather system in the Central Atlantic Ocean catching the eye of the National Hurricane Center recently, thoughts of the upcoming hurricane season begin to surface. The 1998 hurricane season predictions made by research meteorologists Jill F. Hasling and Dr. John C. Freeman of Houston-based Weather Research Center indicate that Florida has the highest risk of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane this year. The west coast of Florida has a 90 percent chance with the east coast of Florida having a 70 percent chance of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane. Mexico also has a 70 percent chance of experiencing a storm and Texas has a 60 percent chance.

In addition, the team's outlook calls for eight named storms to develop in the Atlantic Basin, with five reaching hurricane intensity. Also, there is a 45 percent chance of having a major (category 3 or greater) hurricane. A major hurricane is a storm with maximum sustained winds greater than 114 MPH. The outlook calls for two to three storms to make landfall somewhere on the U.S. coast.

Weather Research Center has been making these predictions since 1985. In the past 13 years, the outlook has only missed the highest probability strike area in two years - 1987 and 1992. However in both of those years, storms made landfall in the second highest probability strike area. This is an accuracy percentage of 85 percent.

Significant storms that have formed in this phase of the outlook include Hurricane Gilbert, 1988; the 1915 Galveston storm and the 1935 Florida Keys storm. The least number of storms to develop in this phase was back in 1925 when only two tropical storms formed.

The monthly distribution of storm development is 50 percent chance of a June storm, 70 percent for July; 90 percent chance for August; 100 percent chance for September; 90 percent chance for October, 80 percent chance for November storms and 10 percent chance of a December storm. It could be a long season!

Below is a chart representing a graphical depiction of this upcoming season's projections. The number indicates the chance of a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall along the indicated coast.

			1998 Hurricane Outlooks
			West Coast of Florida		90%
			East Coast of Florida		70%
			Mexican Coast			70%
			Texas Coast			60%
			Louisiana to Alabama		40%
			Georgia to North Carolina	20%
			East Coast of United States	20%

The names for the 1998 hurricane season are: Alex, Bonnie, Charley, Danielle, Earl, Frances, Georges, Hermine, Ivan, Jeanne, Karl, Lisa, Mitch, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie and, Walter.

In 1997, predictions made by Hasling and Freeman verified as Hurricane Danny struck the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Mississippi in July. The two meteorologists had said the coastline from Louisiana to Mississippi had the highest chance of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane in 1997 with a 70 percent chance. The next highest risk was the west coast of Florida with a 60 percent chance. Both of these forecasts verified when Hurricane Danny on struck near Buras, Louisiana on July 21 and near Pensacola, Florida on July 22.

Also, Weather Research Center's 1997 season outlook had called for seven named storms to develop in the Atlantic basin with four reaching hurricane intensity; unlike counterpart Dr. William Gray of the Colorado State University, who called for eleven named systems. In 1997 there were seven named storms that formed - with Bill, Danny and Erika intensifying into hurricanes. Also, there was a 50 percent chance of having a Category 3 or greater hurricane. A major hurricane is a storm with maximum sustained winds greater than 114 MPH. This verified with Hurricane Erika intensifying into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 MPH. -30-