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2005-12-01 15:39:53

It's Over... Finally!

2005 hurricane season ends but forecasters say prepare for 2006.

As the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season came to an end yesterday, forecasters were warning residents to prepare for another busy season next year as they kept an eye on Tropical Storm Epsilon.

This year's season was the busiest since record keeping began in 1871, with 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes. There were seven major hurricanes and it was the first season, Atlantic or Pacific, to exhaust the list of names and resort to letters of the Greek alphabet.

Forecasters predict that active hurricane seasons like this year's could become common as the Atlantic is in a period of frenzied hurricane activity that began in 1995 and could last at least another decade.

Hurricane experts say that the increase is due to a natural cycle of higher sea temperatures, lower wind shear and other factors, although some scientists blame global warming.

"There are different schools of thought when it comes to the reason behind the increase in activity. This rather active season began in 1995 and is expected to continue at least for the remainder of this decade," Jeffery Simmons of the Department of Meteorology told The Bahama Journal yesterday.

"We may not have the kind of numbers (that we had this year), but we are still looking at things to get up into the upper teens at least, maybe close to 20."

Now forecasters are urging residents to develop their own hurricane plan in an effort to minimise the damage caused by monster storms like last month's Hurricane Wilma, which left thousands of Grand Bahama residents homeless and devastated parts of the island.

Mr. Simmons said that one of the best defenses against hurricane damage is storm shutters and urged residents to develop their own hurricane plan in between seasons.

"We would like people to start making their hurricane plans for upcoming seasons, make sure their properties are secured," said Mr. Simmons, who suggested planning ahead to avoid the crowds and expense that usually comes with hurricane preparations.

"We don't want people to wait (too late)."

Residents like Michelle Cartwright, who is thankful that New Providence was spared any major damage this year, believe that it's only a matter of time before The Bahamas has its own "Katrina experience."

"One day that is going to be us so Bahamians need to start taking hurricane preparations more seriously. Seeing all of those people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was an eye opening experience for me. If that could happen to some place like the great United States, imagine what could happen to us."

Katrina, which formed off The Bahamas, caused hundreds of deaths and thousands remain homeless along the Gulf Coast, where the storm hit three months ago and plunged New Orleans into a chaos usually seen outside of the US.

When Prime Minister Perry Christie returned from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta earlier this week, he announced that leaders of Caribbean nations had discussed the need for a shorter gap between a natural disaster, like a major hurricane, and the arrival of aid from larger nations.

He said discussions also took place about developing a fund to assist the region with disaster relief efforts.

Meanwhile, forecasters were watching the developments of Tropical Storm Epsilon, the 26th named storm of the season.

Epsilon formed Tuesday in the central Atlantic, and although the hurricane season ended yesterday, forecasters were predicting that the storm could still cause dangerous surf conditions in Bermuda.

Yesterday, Epsilon was located around 700 miles east of Bermuda and was moving near seven miles per hour, with tops sustained winds near 50 mph. It is not expected to hit Bermuda or any other land.

The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30.

By: Erica Wells, The Bahama Journal

 
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