Max Mayfield Predicts More Storms for Years to Come

September 22, 2005 WASHINGTON: Expect many more hurricanes, large and small, in the next 10 to 20 years, the director of the US National Hurricane Centre warned the nation yesterday.

Max Mayfield told a congressional panel he believed the Atlantic Ocean was in a cycle of increased hurricane activity that paralleled the increase that started in the 1940s and ended in the 1960s.

The ensuing lull lasted until 1995, then "it's like somebody threw a switch", Mr Mayfield said -- and the number and power of hurricanes hitting the US increased dramatically.

But under questioning by members of a US Senate subcommittee, he shrugged off suggestions that global warming played a role.

Mr Mayfield said the increased activity was a natural cycle in the Atlantic Ocean that fluctuated every 25 to 40 years.

This has been an active year, and several storms have made landfall in the US due to a large high-pressure system over the central Atlantic Ocean. Other years have been more active, but the storms blew out in the Gulf of Mexico without reaching the continental US.

Mr Mayfield predicted several more tropical storms this year. The latest, Hurricane Rita, is the 17th storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June to November. Since US record-keeping started in 1851, the record is 21 tropical storms in 1933. The year 1886 was recorded as the most active hurricane season for the continental US, with seven hurricanes making landfall.

Mr Mayfield listed several US cities and regions in addition to New Orleans that were "especially vulnerable" to a large hurricane -- Houston and Galveston in Texas, Tampa in Florida and the Florida Keys, New York City and Long Island, and New England.

"Katrina will not be the last major hurricane to hit a vulnerable area," he said.

The centre's predictions on Katrina's movements were more accurate than usual, but the storm had become more intense more quickly than expected, he said.

Three days before Katrina hit land on August 29, computer models predicted it would cross the coast near New Orleans.



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