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Claudette Fizzles, Bill Picks Up Steam as Atlantic Hurricane Season Kicks Off

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Hurricane treeAfter two months of no activity, the Atlantic hurricane season started churning last weekend as three named storms developed in the span of just 48 hours.

Ana was the first to form early Saturday, while Bill took shape later in the day. Claudette seemingly came out of nowhere on Sunday. So what does this portend for the upcoming hurricane season?

Though it was the last to form, Tropical Storm Claudette was the first to hit land. It rapidly came ashore near the Florida panhandle Monday morning after originating over the Gulf of Mexico.

However it quickly weakened after making landfall, and has since been downgraded to a tropical depression. It is expected to dump up to 6 inches of rain on parts of Alabama and Mississippi.

Bill, on the other hand, strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane Monday morning. It is currently centered in the Atlantic about 1,160 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, and is heading west-northwest at 16 mph. Bill is expected to pass northeast of Puerto Rico and towards Bermuda over the next five days.

Worried about hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes? Get the facts in our Natural Disasters & Travel section here.

At this point Ana is only a tropical depression and as of Monday is moving quickly across the northeastern Caribbean. It is expected to hit the island of Hispaniola today and dissipate as it crosses. Forecasters predict that it will bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Hurricane Bill’s Path as predicted by National Hurricane CenterStorm watches are currently in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Maarten and several other nearby islands in the Caribbean. Forecasters are also warning that Ana could regain strength and threaten coastal cities and oil production in the Gulf of Mexico.

At this point the storms have not had much impact on travelers. Claudette caused the closure of some low-lying roads in the Florida panhandle, but there have been no reports of coastal flooding or high winds. However, one man was killed in rough surf near Panama City, Florida.

But if Hurricane Bill’s path changes and it hits land, many travelers’ plans could potentially be disrupted. Those who have already booked trips to Caribbean or Gulf Coast resorts should carefully monitor storms that arise before they depart.

Learn more about Hurricane Guarantees and “Hurricane-Free” Islands.

Most airlines and hotels will allow guests to re-book flights and rooms at no charge if they decide to change the dates of their trip. Travel insurance can also offer protection, if the policy is purchased before the storm is named. The fine print of the policy will detail the circumstances under which travelers can cancel in advance, and what type of compensation is in order if a hurricane strikes when they trip is already in progress.

Due to the lack of activity during the first two months of hurricane season, which began June 1, forecasters have had to revise their predictions. Originally they expected a fairly active season with 12-14 named storms, but the warm El Nino weather pattern that is hanging over the Pacific this year is expected to limit the number of storms that form in the Caribbean and Atlantic. The season officially ends November 30.

For more, check out Tropical Storm Andre Marks Beginning of Pacific’s New Hurricane Season

By Karen Elowitt for