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Will Florida get hit by a hurricane this year? Experts say that's debatable


By James Call


Tallahassee, FL – Tomorrow marks the beginning of Hurricane Season, it runs through November 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an above average season. It says at least six hurricanes will form with wind of at least 111 miles per hour. A Hurricane hasn't come ashore in Florida in six years. James Call reports, experts say it's a coin flip whether a named storm will hit the state this year.

"Certainly the fact that we haven't seen any storms in the last couple of years does not increase our chance in a single year."

Florida state university geography professor James Elsner studies hurricanes. He said the eight hurricanes to hit Florida in 2004 and 2005 was unusual. And the five storm-free seasons since is also an aberration.

"SO this clustering of storms in a given year will actually make it more likely to have strings of no-hurricane years, and also make it more likely to have a year with lots of hurricanes. So if you think about it, just flipping coins...its a bit misleading."

Floridians had a run of back luck starting with the 04 hurricane season. The barrage of hurricanes ended in November in 2005. The state has been hurricane free since Wilma The final Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic. A storm's barometric pressure is an indicator of its strength. Wilma had the lowest pressure of any storm to come out of the Atlantic. It plowed into the Yucatan as a Category Five storm with wind of a 175 miles per hour. Then it bounced back into the Gulf and by the time it got to Florida it had weaken to a category two. Five deaths were reported in Florida and widespread damage occurred in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. Elsner said that although in any give year the chance of a storm hitting Florida is 45 percent the odds change when one does come ashore. There's a good chance a second will follow.

"If A storm comes on shore that means the climate is set up to produce another storm that year. So you have to be a little careful. Two years of at least once hurricane is a similar string of bad luck but it is only two years. So it is not that unusual. Five years or six years of no hurricanes is very unusual but given the chance of two or three hurricanes hitting Florida is more than you expect."

Forecasters expect this to a busier than average year because of two factors. One is that average ocean temperature where hurricanes tend to form is two degrees above normal. The heat creates the energy to form and intensify a storm. And the second factor is La Nina conditions are weakening. La Nina is a weather pattern that reduces wind shear and helps prevent hurricanes from forming. The busiest time for the Atlantic Hurricane season is September.