June 1, 2009 — -- Already this decade ranks as the worst ever in the nation's history in both dollars and casualties from hurricanes, and with the 2009 hurricane season beginning today, some forecasters worry the dangers may be on the rise.
Though this year is expected to be an average season with between nine and 14 named storms, the year already has seen its first tropical depression, which hit last week.
The storm formed dangerously close to America's mid-Atlantic shore.
"People may be confused that all storms form off Africa and give you a long signal as they cross the way," said Bill Read who heads up the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
But a new pattern defies the one common to most tropical systems. Instead of starting off Africa's coast; it starts off the U.S. coast in either the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.
Some forecasters fear the pattern may be a sign of things to come.
"The big worry this year is not the overall tropical storms that are coming all of the way over from Africa.
They are sudden developments in or own backyard within two to three days of hitting the coastline," said Joe Bastardi, of AccuWeather.
Hurricane Humberto in 2007 is a classic example of this sudden storm. It formed and intensified off Texas faster than any tropical storm on record. In just one day it grew from a disturbance to a full blown category one hurricane. It ended up causing $50 million in damage.
Warm water temperatures could be a key reason why these pop-up storms are occurring.
The Gulf and Atlantic Ocean warm up faster than the waters off Africa.
"The caveat is in the Gulf of Mexico in August and October you can have very strong storms form and become severe simply because warm water is there," said University of Miami Rosensteil School Of Marine and Atmospheric Science professor Nick Shay. "The atmosphere is favorable, and these storms can spin up to category 4 or 5 status."
Preparing for Hurricane Season
While not all forecasters agree we'll be seeing more of these storms, many believe there's reason to worry.
"You're going to get the very excessive rain and flash flooding, which over the long haul in recent time, has been the No. 1 killer in people in tropical systems," Read said.
And because they develop so fast, getting the word of warning out to those in its path is another concern.
If you wait until a system develops off your coastline, you are not going to have time to sit and think about it," said National Hurricane Center storm surge specialist Jamie Rhome. "You need a plan before that develops. "
Here is a list of this year's names for Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes: