2006 hurricane season goes out without even a whimper


In stark contrast to the record-breaking, 28-storm, 2005 season -- remember Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma and the five Greek-named storms that were used because the list of proper names was exhausted? -- the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ended Nov. 30, fell far short of the experts' predictions for an active year.

No one is complaining, however. The U.S. and the Caribbean got off easy in 2006.

The original forecast, released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in May, called for 13 to 16 named storms ,of which 8 to 10 would be hurricanes and four to six would be Category 3 or higher (winds of at least 111 mph).

Instead, nine named storms formed, five became hurricanes and none made U.S. landfall.

That's the fewest named storms to form in the Atlantic basin since 1997, when seven named storms formed.

On the tropical storm front, Alberto skirted the south Texas coast in June, Ernesto drenched the Mid-Atlantic states in late August after gaining hurricane status briefly over Haiti and Florence knocked out power in Bermuda in early September.

"We got a much-welcome break, but this is a one-season-type break," said Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead forecaster.

Bell said the seasonal activity was lower than expected due to the rapid development of El Nino, which warmed the waters of the Pacific but helped steer storms away from land in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean.

He urged people not to become too complacent about the 2007 season, which starts again June 1.

The Atlantic region, in particular, is still in an active period that began in 1995 and could last another 10 years or more, he said.

Same season, different ocean

It was a different story in the Pacific region, which was predicted to be slower than normal.

Not so. It was more active than ever, with 18 named storms, 10 of which were hurricanes and six of them major.

Fortunately, most of these larger storms brushed Mexico's sparsely populated western coast, although the resorts in the Cabo San Lucas area did evacuate guests on several occasions as a precaution.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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