2009 Atlantic hurricane season ends today
NOAA says it was the slowest season since 1997 in terms of the number of named storms and hurricanes.
The final tally? Nine named storms (Ana through Ida), of which three became hurricanes. Two of those made it to "major" status of Category 3 (111 mph winds) or higher. There were also two tropical depressions that never became strong enough to earn a name.
Bill grew to Cat. 4. It was linked to two deaths - a 54-year-old man who died in storm surf in Florida, and a 7-year-old Maine girl who was swept from rocks at Acadia National Park by a storm wave.
Fred impressed only the meteorologists. It stayed far out in the eastern Atlantic and blew up to Cat. 3 before it expired. It turned out to be the strongest hurricane on record south of 30 degrees North latitude, and east of 35 degrees West longitude, and only the fourth known storm to reach Cat. 3 in that part of the Atlantic. But hardly anyone noticed.
Ida killed more than 150 people in El Salvador alone before it moved from the northwest Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. It reached Cat. 2 strength over the Gulf, but went ashore in northwest Florida as a tropical depression. Its remnants contributed to a destructive low that formed off the southeast Atlantic coast. The resulting three-day nor'easter caused significant flooding and beach erosion from the Carolinas to New Jersey, including Maryland.
Ida was blamed when three New Jersey fishermen perished as their boat sank in rough seas. Three motorists died in weather-related crashes in Virginia. A 36-year-old surfer died in rough waves in New York, and an elderly man died in North Carolina when a tree fell on him in his yard.
While two storms brought tropical-storm-force winds to the U.S. mainland, no one experienced hurricane winds. It was the first time in three years that's happened, NOAA said.
So how did the prognosticators do? The season proved less active than the springtime predictions had suggested. Most forecasters guessed high based on long-range cyclical factors in the Atlantic that have boosted storm formation since 1995. But they lowered their expectations as a developing El Nino event in the tropical Pacific promised to suppress hurricane development in the Atlantic. The season turned out to be below the long-term averages.
Here's the scorecard, based on the spring forecasts:
Average: 11 named storms; 6 hurricanes; 2 "major" storms.
Actual: 9 named storms, 3 hurricanes, 2 "major" storms.
NOAA (May forecast): 9-14 named storms; 4-7 hurricanes; 1-3 "major."
Colorado State U. (April): 12 named storms; 6 hurricanes; 2 "major."
WeatherBug (April): 11-13 named storms; 6-8 hurricanes; 3-4 "major."
AccuWeather.com (March): 13 named storms; 8 hurricanes; 2 "major."
The first long-range forecast for the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will likely come in December, from the folks at Colorado State University.
(AP PHOTO/Vernon Ogrodnek/Ida's remnants rake Ocean City, N.J.)