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DENVER - It sounds like a great idea: Let's just blast hurricanes like Rita and Katrina out of the sky before they hurt more people. Or, at least weaken the storms and steer them away from cities.
Atmospheric scientists say it's wishful thinking that we could destroy or even influence something as huge and powerful as a hurricane. They abandoned such a quest years ago after more than two decades of inconclusive government-sponsored research.
Private companies have conducted tests on a much smaller scale, but have made little progress despite initially claiming to erase storm clouds from the atmosphere.
"It would be like trying to move a car with a pea shooter," said hydrometeorologist Matthew Kelsch of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. "The amount of energy involved in a hurricane is far greater that anything we're going to impart to it."
The federal government's hurricane modification program was called Project Stormfury. The idea was raised during the Eisenhower administration after several major storms hit the East Coast in the mid-1950s, killing 749 people and causing billions in damages.