Hurricane season ends with little bluster - only 2 storms
By Oren Dorell
ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season ended Monday without a hurricane landing on U.S. shores and with the fewest named storms in 12 years, according to the National Hurricane Center.
There were nine named tropical storms since June, when the season began. Three became hurricanes and two tropical storms made landfall, said Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center.
"We had a great, great year," Chris Vecsey, a salesman at Top Gun Tackle in Orange Beach, Ala., told the Associated Press. Tropical Storm Ida slogged ashore in the area in November with heavy rains but left relatively little damage.
"Last year, we had Gustav and Ike and a couple of other storms that didn't even hit here. And with all the hype, it ruined us. It just didn't happen this year," Vecsey said.
The reason: El Nioo, the cyclical warming of equatorial waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, which tends to inhibit the development of tropical systems in the Atlantic, Feltgen said.
El Nioo is expected to stay through the winter and into spring, Feltgen said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will issue its 2010 hurricane forecast in May.
Despite the quiet season, Feltgen said the USA remains in an active hurricane period, which usually lasts 20 to 30 years. "We started in '95, so we're only 14 years in," he said. "We may be only halfway through it."
NOAA and Air Force hurricane hunters flew 38 reconnaissance missions over the Atlantic this year, compared with 169 in 2008. This was the first time in three years that no hurricanes arrived on U.S. shores, according to NOAA.
That's not to say this year's storms were harmless.
The most damaging storm of the season, Ida, slammed into Nicaragua as a hurricane, damaging schools and homes.
Ida dissipated after it made landfall as a tropical storm in the Gulf Coast and crossed the Florida Peninsula.
Its remnants combined with a nor'easter and dumped up to 12 inches of rain in Chesapeake County, Va., and caused flooding in Norfolk, Va., where a 7.4-foot tide was the fifth-highest on record, according to the National Weather Service.
It was blamed for three traffic fatalities in Virginia and a death in North Carolina.
It washed away beaches in Norfolk's Willoughby section and flooded homes throughout Virginia's Hampton Roads area.
The storm "was of historic proportion," said Norfolk city spokeswoman Terry Bishirjian. "We haven't had flooding levels like this since the hurricane in August of 1933."