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El Nino to Thank for Quiet Hurricane Season, Scientists Say

While the 2009 hurricane season officially ended Monday, it doesn’t mean that residents shouldn’t remain alert. "It’s the formal end of the season, but it doesn’t mean that mother nature follows that calendar," Mark Walters, who heads the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said Tuesday.
Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, but in 2005, Tropical Storm Zeta formed on Dec. 30. That was the same year Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf coast. A record-setting 28 storms formed that season—so many that the National Hurricane Center ran out of names with October’s Hurricane Wilma and had to move into the Greek alphabet.
Nine named storms, three hurricanes and two major hurricanes formed in 2009. None of them hit the territory, but there were a few threats: Ana, Bill and Erika, Walters said.
"We looked upon them as a good opportunity for training," Walters said.
The Colorado State University hurricane forecast team of Phil Klotzbach and William Gray in August predicted 10 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
"Activity in 2009 was reduced considerably due largely to the moderate El Nino event that developed," Gray said. "This event generated significantly stronger-than-average vertical wind shear, especially in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico."
Five named storms – Ana, Danny, Erika, Fred, and Henri – dissipated over the open ocean in the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic this year. The team said that this was a fairly rare occurrence that typically happens only in years characterized by high levels of tropospheric vertical wind shear, such as 2009.
Only two weak tropical storms made landfall on the U.S. mainland this year – Claudette in August and Ida in November.
According to Gray and Klotzbach, the 2009 hurricane season was unusual in several ways. For starters, it began late. Ana did not form until August 15 – the latest ‘A’ storm of the season since Andrew formed on Aug. 17, 1992.
Additionally, only nine named storms occurred during 2009, which is the fewest named storms in a tropical cyclone season since 1997, when eight named storms formed. Three hurricanes occurred in 2009 – the fewest hurricanes in a tropical cyclone since 1997, when there were also three hurricanes.
And only two major hurricanes formed during the 2009 hurricane season. The last time fewer than two major hurricanes occurred in a season was 1997, when only one major hurricane formed.
No Category-5 hurricanes developed in 2009. This is the second consecutive year without one. The last time that two or more years occurred in a row with no Category-5 hurricanes was 1999 through 2002.
No named storms formed in June or July. The last time that no storm activity occurred in June or July was 2004. This is the 18th year of the past 66 years with no storm formations in June or July.

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