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No Respite From Hurricanes

Colorado State University hurricane forecaster William Gray says the 1999 hurricane season will be similar to what the Atlantic Basin saw last year.

Last year's 14 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes killed at least 10,000 people, mostly Honduran victims of Hurricane Mitch.

Earlier this month, Gray warned that Florida, which has been lucky the past 25 years, "is a sitting duck" in the upcoming hurricane season.

"We're going to be seeing a $50 billion-, $70 billion-, $100 billion-damage storm," he said.

Tuesday's update calls for 14 tropical storms, nine hurricanes, and four intense hurricanes. They are the same figures issued in Gray's initial 1999 forecast released in December.

That compares to 14, 10, and three that occurred in 1998. Long-term averages are 9.3 tropical storms, 5.8 hurricanes and 2.2 intense hurricanes annually.

Gray said the probability of a major storm hitting the East Coast and Florida Peninsula is about twice the long-term average, one-and-a-half times the long-term average for the Gulf Coast and slightly less than twice the long-term average for the Caribbean.

A major storm has winds of at least 111 mph. The long-term average is based on intense hurricanes hitting land for the areas from 1950-94.

"We expect the current La Nina below-average water conditions in the eastern equatorial Pacific to continue through the 1999 hurricane season," Gray said.

Other climatic factors expected to affect the June 1-Nov. 30, 1999, hurricane season include westerly stratospheric winds, expected above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and anticipated below-average Caribbean Basin sea-level pressure in August and September.

"All these factors are ... expected to enhance 1999 hurricane activity," Gray said.

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