Changing Planet

Forecasters Predict 70 Percent Likelihood of Major Hurricane Striking US This Summer

Forecasters at Colorado State University in Fort Collins say there’s a 70 percent probability that a major hurricane will make landfall somewhere on the U.S. Gulf or Atlantic coast before hurricane season ends in November.

CSU forecasters Phil Klotzbach and William Gray also said  the counties with the highest possibility of a hurricane landfall are along the Gulf Coast from Texas to the Florida Keys.

Monroe County, Florida – which includes the Florida Keys – is by far the most likely county to be hit by a hurricane, Klotzbach and Gray said. The forecasters said there’s a 34 percent chance that the Keys will be struck by a tropical storm before November 30, and a 13 percent chance that that storm will be a major hurricane with winds exceeding 110 mph.

The other two counties most likely to be affected by a tropical storm are Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana and Matagorda County, Texas. Terrebonne is about 60 miles southwest of New Orleans. Klotzbach and Gray said there is about an 18 percent chance that a tropical storm will strike Terrebonne Parish, and about a 4 percent chance that the storm will be a major hurricane.

Matagorda County – which lies between Galveston and Corpus Christi – has about a 15 percent chance of a tropical storm making landfall, and about a 4 percent chance that the storm will be a major hurricane.

The prediction was part of the CSU forecast team’s seasonal update to its prediction for the 2011 hurricane season. Klotzbach and Gray reaffirmed their forecast that the remaining summer and fall hurricane season will be busy. Klotzbach and Gray think 16 named tropical storms with winds of at least 35 mph will form in the Atlantic Basin by November 30, when the hurricane season ends.

The Atlantic Basin includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The forecasters also predicted that nine of the tropical storms will develop into hurricanes with winds of at least 74 mph. Of those nine hurricanes, five will intensify into major hurricanes with winds exceeding 110 mph.

During an average hurricane season, about 10 tropical storms form, and from those storms about six develop into hurricanes and about two become major hurricanes.

Five tropical storms have formed since the 2011 hurricane season began on June 1. None of the storms developed into hurricanes, but the peak of the hurricane season – September 10 – is more than a month away.

The full seasonal update can be seen here.

Willie Drye is an award-winning author and a contributing editor for National Geographic News. He and his wife live in Wilmington, North Carolina.

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