Based on predictions issued by Colorado State Univer-sity's hurricane forecast team, meteorologist Lee Marvin Johnson said that The Bahamas is in store for an "above-average" hurricane season this year, with the probability of hurricane landfall on Bahamian soil at 53 percent.


An average Atlantic hurricane season consists of 10 named storms, six of which become hurricanes and two major hurricanes (category three or greater). In 2009, The Bahamas experienced one of its "quietest" seasons with nine named storms, three hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

This year, however, it is predicted that there will be 15 named storms. Eight of these storms are expected to become hurricanes and four, major hurricanes.

Of those named storms, Johnson said that the probability of landfall in The Bahamas stands at 81 percent, with a 31 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will touchdown on the country.

Johnson revealed this information at the Rotary Club of Freeport's meeting last week where he served as guest speaker.

In this role, he took the time to inform the Rotarians about natural disasters, namely hurricanes.

Speaking on current weather conditions, Johnson said, "All of us should know that we're in El Niño year ... This winter has been really cold. All of our cold fronts were cold and each one of them brought convection.

"Now, El Niño usually means that storms in the Atlantic are not going to happen because you're going to have a lot of vertical wind shear. You're going to shear off the top of the thunder storms as they try to form, and so it inhibits the hurricane formation."

These conditions will ch-ange, he added, making reference to the report from the CSU's hurricane forecast team which pointed out that the El Niño is weakening and is expected to become neutral in time for hurricane season, which traditionally runs from June 2 to November 30.

This combined with the "strong anomalous warming of the tropical Atlantic" will make for a busy season, the forecaster said.

Johnson explained, to the Rotarians that of all the islands in The Bahamas, Grand Bahama is most susceptible to storms and is ranked among the top three "in terms of having the most named storms passing within 60 miles of any location in the Caribbean."

He revealed that Grand Bahama's landfall probabilities for named storms stand at 56 percent; hurricanes at 34 percent; and major hurricanes at 19 percent.

In spite of these figures, Johnson told the Rotarians that they have no need to be worried.

"Don't forget (the 2005 hurricane season) now, we went into the Greek alphabet and how many of those storms affected The Bahamas? None," he said. "Don't get scared with those numbers all you have to do is be prepared."

Operating under the motto, "pray for none, prepare for one," Johnson advised against the tendency to label systems as "only a tropical storm" or "just a category one hurricane."

Flipping through the slides of his power-point presentation, Johnson showed the Rotarians the extent of destruction that can result from tropical storms and lower-category hurricanes.

He noted that within one hurricane there can be several water spouts or tornados. And in addition to advising Rotarians to think smart and remain safe during hurricane season, Johnson reflected on the March 29 tornado that touched down on Grand Bahama claiming the lives of three Freeport Container Port employees, all in the absence of a Freeport Weather Office.

Johnson, who was employed at the office before its closing in 2009, is of the belief that had the local weather office been open, the Container Port would have been informed, but added that "what they do with (the warning) from there we can't say."

Asked whether the local weather office will be reopened, he offered, "The government says that they will hire two persons to man the station in Freeport. I don't know how two persons are supposed to man the station, we were operating with five and it was really difficult with the five."

The 2010 hurricane season will begin with the named storm "Alex." The season peaks in August through to October.