Local News

Experts Predict More Activity in '98 as Hurricane Conference Opens

Posted April 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The 20th annual National Hurricane Conference officially kicked-off Wednesday with over 1,500 registered participants. The National Hurricane Conference is the nation's forum for education and professional training in hurricane preparedness.

Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III praised the record crowd of emergency managers, planners, coastal residents and state and federal agency staff for their work towards making the coast a safer place to live, work and vacation.

Jerry Jarrell, Acting Director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., followed Governor Gilmore's opening comments with an overview of the 1997 hurricane season. Jarrell called 1997, "an interesting and slow season" and referred to August and September - two of the most active months - as "remarkable" because only one hurricane developed during this period. Jarrell said that 1998 would likely be more active because the effects of El Nino will be less severe.

Other speakers at the conference included Ernie Kiesling, professor of civil engineering at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and Ray Burby, a professor at the University of New Orleans. Kiesling described the latest advancements in the construction of above ground shelters and ways to make existing shelters more hurricane resistant.

Burby told said that federal government policy might be putting more property at risk to hurricanes. He also stated that hurricane damage now averages $5 billion per year.

A hot topic at this year's conference is a new wind-measuring device that can be dropped from an airplane at altitudes of up to 40,000 feet. Because these instruments can accurately measure wind speeds at several different heights, they will give forecasters a better idea of a storm's intensity and movement.