WASHINGTON - This time last year, a tropical storm was developing near the Bahamas that eventually formed Hurricane Katrina, the 11th named storm and the fifth hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic season. By comparison, this year's tropical storm season in the Atlantic Ocean seems relatively mild, with only five named storms and Ernesto briefly developing into a Category 1 hurricane on Sunday (although experts expect it to strengthen again into a hurricane as it approaches Florida later this week).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), however, we shouldn't be fooled by this year's slow start. NOAA adjusted its forecast downward earlier this month, but the agency is still calling for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA is projecting a total of 12 to 15 named storms, of which seven to nine will intensify to hurricanes, including three or four hurricanes rated at Category 3 or higher.

Publication date: 08/28/2006