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In the News November 2006

Forecasters downgrade hurricane predictions

The tropical storm forecasting team led by William Gray at Colorado State University revised its hurricane activity projections for the 2006 season, “significantly reducing” the number of storms predicted through October. As of Sept. 1, Gray and fellow researcher Phillip Klotzbach were predicting 13 named storms (down from 15 forecast a month earlier) and five hurricanes (down from seven), including two major hurricanes (down from three).

Gray says the August forecast “was a bust.” He says forecasters expect the Atlantic basin tropical cyclone season will be “considerably less active” than anticipated at the beginning of the month. This is attributed to an increase in tropical Atlantic midlevel dryness and a continued trend toward El Niño-like conditions in the eastern and central Pacific.

Hurricane center director plans to step down

Max Mayfield, longtime director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, will retire at the end of the year after 34 years of federal service to spend more time with his family. “I made this difficult decision knowing that the team here at the National Hurricane Center is the best there is,” says Mayfield. “The team’s performance during the last two years — certainly the busiest in my career — has been exemplary, and I am very proud of that … and them.”

Mayfield says he’s given considerable notice to leadership at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Weather Service so they can begin the process of finding a successor and coordinate a seamless transition.

“Max is a national treasure,” says Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher Jr., U.S. Navy (Ret.), undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “His calm, reassuring presence on TV has helped millions of Americans prepare for potentially deadly storms, and has helped saved countless lives.”

More wrangling over former JFK sailboat

The legal fate of a Star Class sloop owned and sailed by President John F. Kennedy as a teenager will be revisited after a federal appeals court judge ordered a lower court to reconsider whether a co-owner was sufficiently notified of the boat’s auction.

Built in 1930, Flash II was owned by Kennedy for six years as a teenager and sold by the future president in 1942. Dr. Kerry Scott Lane, a Florida anesthesiologist, was one of several investors who, along with Gregory Anderson, a convicted marijuana dealer, purchased the boat in the late 1990s. Anderson was later arrested and the vessel seized. In July 2005 a federal district judge ruled that Flash II be sold at auction, with the federal government entitled to two-thirds of the proceeds from the sale, since Anderson allegedly bought the boat with money from selling marijuana.

Lane, who claims to have invested some $70,000 in the boat’s restoration, argued the government gave him inadequate notice of the forfeiture action and requested “relief” from the judgment. The district court judge refused, and Lane subsequently appealed the ruling.

In an Aug. 16 opinion, Judge Bruce M. Selya sided with Lane, in part because the district court didn’t hold an evidentiary hearing. Selya set aside the order denying Lane’s motion and ordered further proceedings to determine if sufficient effort was made to identify Lane as a co-owner. The procedure involved in accomplishing this order was left up to the district court.