Hurricane Experts Meet In Mobile To Discuss 2006 Hurricane Season

More than 1400 people in the United States died from storms in 2005. Making sure that doesn't happen again is the focus of the 60th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference.

Governmental agencies, hurricane experts, and emergency officials from all over the nation are meeting in Mobile this week.

"We had 27 names storms shattering the old record," Dr. Jack Beven from the National Weather Center says. "Most costly and most deadly since 1928."

Most South Mississippians know personally the intensity of the 2005 hurricane season. While the gulf coast continues to recover, hurricane experts are searching for ways to make sure the 2006 season isn't as deadly.

"There were a number of elderly folks who lost their lives last year during Hurricane Katrina and the impact of Rita," Federal Coordinator for Meteorology Sam Williamson says.

Williamson says the first improvement needs to be in communication and making sure the public is fully aware of the dangers lurking at sea.

"We want to be able to tweak the message to make sure it's understandable once it is received by the users," Williamson says.

A clearer message will also help local emergency officials know when to call for evacuations and when to tell the public to stay put.

"It's also best to be safe than sorry. However, what happens when you have false evacuations, it erodes public confidence when an evacuation is called," NOAA Public Information Officer Kent Laborde says.

Williamson says the storm track predictions for 2005 were right on target.

"The impact of the storm and when it was going to happen, I think we did a good job in providing information to the public," Williamson says.

But given the number killed, Dr.Beven says they need to improve storm intensity forecasting models.

"Sometimes we get false alarms of rapid intensification from our computer models, other times the models don't show that much development and we get it anyway," Beven says.

"What's important is saving peoples lives," Williamson adds.

These hurricane watchers hopes the improvements made at this conference will do just that.

Officials say not only did last year's hurricane season affect this year's list of improvements, it also changed the conference location. It was originally scheduled to take place in New Orleans. The conference will last until Thursday.

The National Weather Center will announce this year's hurricane predictions on May 22nd.