This year's hurricane season will be the worst in five years, with six hurricanes expected, a storm expert predicts.
Two of the storms could be killers, with winds exceeding 100 mph, William Gray, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, told the 17th annual National Hurricane Con-fer-ence.But he's not guaranteeing anything for the 1995 season, which goes from June to November.
"I just make the best prediction I can and let the chips fall where they may," he said Friday at the end of the four-day conference that drew 1,200 meteorologists, disaster experts, insurers and emergency management officials.
Gray predicted one hurricane could hit the New Jersey shore, a vulnerable area of heavily developed barrier islands that includes this casino resort.
South Florida is still recovering from 1992's Hurricane Andrew, which did $40 billion worth of damage, killed 55 people and left thousands homeless. Storm trackers say chances are remote a storm of that magnitude could hit the Northeast. The last to directly hit the New Jersey shore was in 1903.
But the professor has a good track record.
He predicted 57 hurricanes in the last 11 years. There were 54. He correctly predicted the exact number of hurricanes in three seasons.
"In the past 11 years I've been doing this, two were busts, two were marginal, and the rest were pretty darn good," he said.
Gray and his researchers track an array of indicators to come up with their forecasts, including wind patterns, air pressure, rainfall levels in West Africa and the Pacific warm-water current called El Nino.
Years of study have linked those factors to hurricanes.
"It's harder to predict rain," Gray said.