Nov. 21, 2003 Celebrated hurricane forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University Friday sent out his annual "how we did" press release Friday announcing that for the fifth year in a row, he and his team were on target.
As of Nov. 20, the total had hit 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes. In his May 30 prediction, made right before the June 1 to Nov. 30 hurricane season began, he was off by only the number of storms that became hurricanes. He predicted eight hurricanes rather than the seven that actually occurred.
"As the last five years indicate, we are making progress in better understanding and consequently improving seasonal prediction skill," Gray said.
He also said his monthly predictions for August, September and October, the height of the season, were on target.
Gray stressed, as he has with each prediction, that we are in an era of increased hurricane activity. He expects it to continue for the next two or three decades.
Gray does not predict probability for hurricanes making landfall in the Caribbean, but does so for the U.S. mainland.
"The United States has been extremely lucky over the past nine years, but climatology will eventually right itself and we must expect a great increase in landfalling major hurricanes," he said.
Virgin Islands residents counted themselves among the lucky this year since they did not receive any hits. However, the Big Rain of Nov. 10 through 14 caused extensive damage across the territory. Water continues to spill down the hillsides, and residents are still cleaning up.
More rain is expected, but not at the level of the Big Rain, said Andy Roche, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in San Juan.
A cold front moving this way should hit the area Saturday night and into Sunday. With it will come numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms. If it moves quickly, it shouldn't cause the hillsides to slide again. However, Roche said it could slow down or even become stationary, which could cause more flooding and mudslides.
Roche said that the sunny weather the last few days helped to dry out the ground, which may help prevent further landslides.
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