LSU Professors Examine Past Century Of Hurricanes From Texas To Maine

A close look at a century of hurricanes shows three vulnerable "hot spots'' that include the northern Gulf Coast but mostly serves to prove the unpredictability of the storms, according to LSU professors.

"The future is really hard to predict but we really need to be alert,'' said Bob Muller, a professor emeritus and researcher.

Trends from 45 points along the Gulf and East coasts, from South Padre Island, Texas, to Eastport, Maine, show three spots that face significant hurricane risk: South Florida, North Carolina and the northern Gulf Coast.

Louisiana doesn't seem to follow a pattern compared to other areas, making it even more unpredictable, according to the research. Hurricanes or tropical storms have hit the Louisiana coastline 36 times between 1900 and 2000, Muller said.

Indicators anticipate what the Louisiana coastline's risk is in a given year, with a tropical storm once every three years and a hurricane once a decade, said Barry Keim, LSU assistant professor of geography and anthropology.

Forecasters predict three major storms for the Atlantic during the June-through-November hurricane season. The research shows that the South Florida coast has had a decline in tropical storms and hurricanes but North Carolina has experienced a major increase.

Hurricane experts say in the long term, some areas could return to the high frequencies of tropical storms and hurricanes in the past, Keim said.

In Florida, there has been a dramatic decline of tropical storms and hurricanes, which could take the region by surprise and ruin development when it comes along, Muller said.

"As the years go by, and you don't have a strike at a particular place, there tends to be a forgetful pattern in the minds of most everyone,'' Muller said. "They build right down by the water's edge.''

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)