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Experts expecting extra rain

August 16, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

TRI-STATE - The wrath of Hurricane Charley missed the Tri-State region during the weekend, but area meteorologists expect powerful rainstorms to be the rule rather than the exception for the next two months.

At least one meteorologist is predicting hurricanes that hit land in 2004 will be twice the strength of typical storms.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service and AccuWeather say the number of hurricanes and tropical storms during the peak of the storm season in the area of the Atlantic Ocean - mid-August through mid-October - is expected to be well above average.

According to the National Weather Service's Web site, hurricane experts say the likelihood of an above- or near-normal season is 90 percent.

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Steve Rogowski, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., said the projections are based on large-scale patterns they observed this year such as sea-surface temperature and wind patterns.

Though the Washington County area likely will receive abundant rainfall, Rogowski said it is too early to predict when and if a hurricane or tropical storm will blow through the area this year.

"We can't forecast tropical systems that haven't developed yet," Rogowski said. "But conditions are favorable for more tropical patterns to develop."

Rogowski said two active tropical storms can be tracked now. He said Hurricane Danielle is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to move north, and Tropical Storm Earl is just north of Venezuela and expected to move west-northwest.

Rogowski said those storms are unlikely to effect the Mid-Atlantic region.

However, AccuWeather Meteorologist Kerry Schwindenhammer said Hurricane Earl is following a path similar to that of Hurricane Charley and it could threaten the Tri-State region if the storm's path is altered while passing through the Gulf of Mexico.

Schwindenhammer, based at AccuWeather's office in State College, Pa., said hurricane forecasting specialist Joe Bastardi believes the storms that make it to land will not only be more common this year, but much stronger.

Schwindenhammer said Bastardi, a fellow meteorologist, thinks landfall storms are going to be "more than twice the normal intensity" this year.

Schwindenhammer said even if hurricanes and tropical storms stay clear of the area, conditions still are expected to be rainy on a regular basis through October.

"I think, in general, the pattern that has been in place for two years now favors a wetter scenario," he said. "It seems like every few days we'll have something moving through."

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