Dr. William Gray

ORLANDO – A Central Florida hotel magnate is blasting a well-known hurricane forecaster for being off the mark in his annual predictions, and is now threatening a lawsuit.

Harris Rosen is lashing out at storm expert Dr. William Gray, saying his gloomy forecasts are costing the Sunshine State billions of dollars in lost tourist revenue.

“Look, Doctor, you’ve made these forecasts and you were wrong once,” Rosen told WKMG-TV. “You made the forecast and you were wrong twice. Are you going to continue to make these forecasts?”

Rosen said surveys show 70 percent of guests not returning to his hotels cited hurricane fears as the prime reason.

Hotel magnate Harris Rosen (WKMG-TV, Orlando)

“I suspect it costs the state billions of dollars,” he said. “Five thousand people scheduled to attend my association meeting and I’m looking at Orlando and it is September or October, I may say, ‘Why take a chance?'”

The Colorado State University forecaster responded to Rosen, explaining anytime there’s a catastrophic hurricane season such as in 2004, there will be a slowing down or hesitancy to return to Florida.

Gray predicted 17 named storms with nine becoming hurricanes, but the 2007 storm count came short of Gray’s predicted totals, and no hurricanes came near Florida this season, which ended Friday.

Last week, a Miami Herald article highlighted the streak of poor prognostications, noting:

Why do they bother? And given the errors – which can undermine faith in the entire hurricane warning system – are these full-season forecasts doing more harm than good?

”The seasonal hurricane forecasters certainly have a lot of explaining to do,” said Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center.

”The last couple of years have humbled the seasonal hurricane forecasters and pointed out that we have a lot more to learn before we can do accurate seasonal forecasts,” he said.

WKMG reported other business owners are angry at Gray’s predictions.

John Smith, who runs Storm Stoppers, a plywood-alternative company that has benefited from busy storm seasons, spends thousand of dollars when an active year is predicted.

“What we do is stock up,” Smith said. “When there is a let down, we have all of our capital invested in materials and you know, we have to wait until the next big weather event.”

More and more business owners said they prefer that prognosticators keep their outlooks to themselves.

“A local meteorologist would not last as long as some of these prediction artists have been in business,” Smith said.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.