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Mayfield said it was impossible to foresee what the 2005 hurricane season holds. He said that when the hurricane season begins in June there isn't even any way to predict when the first hurricane will occur. He emphasized everyone to make advance preparation for such hurricanes and said valuable information is presented every year about how to get ready for the hurricane season every March during the annual "Hurricane Preparedness Week."
The center will release its prediction for the 2005 season on May 16, but Mayfield said it is likely that a trend of increasing activity will continue.
The strong high-pressure ridge that steered four hurricanes toward Florida last summer is still out there -- and could direct more storms our way this year.
"Right now, the pattern is very similar to what we had last year," hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart of the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday. "So people should plan on this being another above-average season."
The ridge has already caused Palm Beach County to have its wettest month ever in September -- followed by the driest four-month period ever, from October through January. The result: Palm Beach and Broward counties are drying out, increasing fire danger.
Called the Bermuda High because it is centered over the small island, the ridge last year prevented hurricanes from turning north in the Atlantic, forcing them on a westerly track toward Florida.
Unless it breaks apart in the next few months, and it's unknown whether it will, the upcoming hurricane season, which starts June 1, again could be tense, forecasters said. In addition to Florida, the pressure ridge creates a threat for the rest of the lower U.S. coast.
Stewart emphasized it is extremely unlikely that four hurricanes will again batter Florida, as Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne did last year. Experts say that kind of catastrophe happens on average once every 100 to 200 years.
However, because the Atlantic basin has been in an active era since 1995, it would not be unusual to see two intense systems slam the state, Stewart said.