Most Destructive Hurricane Season on Record

At the beginning of summer, as forecasters began to notice there had already been a lot of hurricanes, they predicted this would be a rough year.

They had no idea how right they would be.

This morning, Tropical Storm Epsilon took shape in the Atlantic Ocean -- the 26th storm this year strong enough to have a name.

This season brought 26 named storms, compared to 11 in an average year. Additonally, this season, 13 storms became hurricanes, compared to the seven hurricanes seen in an average season.

Perhaps most ominous, Katrina, Rita and Wilma were three of the six strongest hurricanes on record.

"I would like to be able to stand up here and tell you that next year will not be any more severe than this year but I can't do that," said Adm. Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Forecasters say the Earth is at the crest of a regular cycle -- that hurricane seasons go up and down in severity over a period that lasts for decades.

"We are 10 years into a cycle, but I can't tell you it's going to last 10 years or 30 years," Lautenbacher said.

During this part of the cycle, the ocean surface is two to three degrees above normal. More steam rises into the air, and warm winds from Africa blow storms right at the United States.

Be Prepared for a Storm

What should you do? The National Hurricane Center says use the off-season to get ready. People should know where to evacuate and stock up on flashlights and bottled water.

Perhaps most important, they say, do not count on the government to bail you out.

"One of the things we say is be self-sufficient for three to seven days," said National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield.

With luck, forecasters say we now get a six-month break -- until next year's season begins with Tropical Storm Alberto.

ABC News' Ned Potter filed this report for "World News Tonight."

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