At least five major hurricanes with winds of more than 111 miles per hour are expected to develop in the Atlantic during the 2011 storm season, Colorado State University forecasters said yesterday.
Overall, some 16 named storms are likely, with nine of them reaching hurricane status — an above-average season, said the forecasters led by William Gray and Phil Klotzbach. The forecast reduces by one the group’s preliminary December outlook for 17 named storms.
There is a 72 percent chance that one of the major storms will strike the US coast, above the 52 percent average for the past century, they said, and a 47 percent chance of a Gulf Coast hit. The East Coast’s odds are 48 percent.
“We reduced the number of storms but our statistical models are still calling for an active season,’’ Klotzbach said in a telephone interview.
The June 1 to Nov. 30 hurricane season is closely watched because the storms are a threat to oil and natural gas interests in the Gulf of Mexico and to agriculture in the South. Florida is the second-largest citrus producer behind Brazil, while the Gulf accounts for 31 percent of US oil output and 43 percent of refining capacity.
Major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher on a five-step scale, are the greatest threat to gas and oil platforms.
Winds of 111 miles per hour can uproot trees, crush poorly built houses, and cause widespread power outages, according to the National Hurricane Center.
In 2005, the most active hurricane season on record, hurricanes Katrina and Rita killed more than 1,800 people, caused $91 billion in damage, destroyed 115 energy platforms in the Gulf, and shut down 95 percent of Gulf oil production and almost 30 percent of US refining capacity, according to government reports.