Today, two weeks before the official launch (on June 1) of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued its official prediction. The news is a bit grim: "Forecaster confidence that this will be an active hurricane season is very high," Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said today at NOAA's press conference.
In its official out-on-a-limb call, NOAA says it expects 12 to 15 tropical storms to strike this year between June 1 and November 30, the season's official end. Of those, seven to nine could become hurricanes, with three to five of those considered major.
Last year's hurricane season wreaked enormous havoc on Caribbean islands and, of course, on Florida and other Gulf Coast states. There were 12 major storms last year, seven of which technically became hurricanes (and that was right in line with NOAA's predictions, which had estimated that 12 to 15 would form in total).
Following are some helpful hints and updates:
The peak of the season falls between mid-August and late October -- prepare to be flexible if booking cruises in the Caribbean or along the Atlantic. Itineraries could change suddenly (and cruise lines don't owe passengers a dime in compensation when ports are cancelled due to weather).
Beware, too, that hurricane disruption could extend beyond missing a port or two. Last year, two hurricanes struck Florida's embarkation-heavy Atlantic coast, and cruises were either canceled altogether or abbreviated (or even lengthened, when ships couldn't come in from the sea).
Two Caribbean islands suffered major damage, though both are up and running at about 50 percent again (and have been accepting cruise ships for some months now). On Grand Cayman, the most obvious sign is that vegetation, burned brown from the wind and salt water, looks a bit sparse. All of the major tourist attractions and almost every restaurant (including Calypso Grill and Papagallo, which underwent lengthy rehabilitation after the storm), are open.
On Grenada, hotels are only about 50 percent restored but many major sites and attractions have reopened. These include Grand Anse Beach, the spice vendors' market, Grand Etang National Forest Reserve, the Carenage, Forts Frederick and George, River Antoine Rum Distillery, and the Dougaldston Spice Estate, among others.
Though not experiencing as severe a destruction, the Bahamas' Grand Bahama Island, home of Freeport, sustained damage; it is, however, up and running at pretty much full speed.
Want to reminisce about last year's season? Check out our 2004 hurricane wrap-up.
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Atlantic Hurricane Season 2005: NOAA's Official Prediction
May 16, 2005