Forecasters: About 50-50 chance major storm will hit East Coast

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Hurricane season officially began today with forecasters at Colorado State University predicting an active season with as many as 14 named storms and seven of those falling into the category of a major event — Category 3 or higher — which brings sustained winds of 110 miles per hour or higher and storm surges more than 20 feet above normal tide levels.Colorado State University climatologist Phil Klotzbach, who along with William Gray, put together the estimate for the six-month hurricane season, place the chance at 45 percent that a major storm will hit the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula. They are basing that prediction on the El Nino weather pattern — which served last year to keep the hurricane activity down in the United States — weakening and the warmer conditions providing more fuel for an active hurricane season. “We continue to foresee above-average activity for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season,” the Colorado report on the 2010 hurricane season stated. “We have increased our seasonal forecast due to a combination of anomalous warming of Atlantic tropical sea surface temperatures and a more confident view that the current El Nino will weaken. We anticipate an above-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall.”This year, they say there is a 70 percent chance at least one major hurricane will hit the U.S. coastline. In a more typical season Klotzbach and Gray put the chances at closer to 50 percent.Last year, only three hurricanes developed — two major storms — and none touching down in Florida. Since 1995 when hurricanes activity has been noticeably stronger, six major hurricanes have struck Florida including including Opal in 1995; Charley, Ivan and Jeanne in 2004 and Dennis and Wilma in 2005.

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