What happened to the hurricanes?
In stark contrast
to last year's record-breaking, 28-storm season, the 2006 Atlantic
hurricane season, which officially ended Nov. 30, fell far short of
the experts' predictions for an active year.
The calamity that
was forecast never happened.
There was nothing
like Emily, Katrina, Rita or Wilma. There was no need to name
storms after Greek letters because the list of proper names was not
exhausted. There were five storms named after Greek letters in
Mexican resorts and several U.S. tour operators had readied for an
active storm season, fashioning cancellation and trip-replacement
policies that protected guests if a hurricane disrupted their
No one is
complaining, however, that the U.S. and the Caribbean got off easy
released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association in May
called for 13 to 16 storms, of which eight to 10 would be
hurricanes. The NOAA predicted that four to six storms would be
Category 3 or higher (winds of at least 111 mph).
Here is the final
tally for the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean and the
Gulf of Mexico: There were nine named tropical storms with winds of
at least 39 mph. Five became hurricanes. None made U.S.
That's the fewest
named storms to form in the Atlantic basin since 1997, when seven
named storms formed.
Alberto skirted the south Texas coast in June.
hurricane status briefly over Haiti before weakening and simply
drenching the mid-Atlantic states in late August.
out power in Bermuda in early September.
Two of the
September storms, Gordon and Helene, evolved into major hurricanes
with peak winds of 120 mph, but both stayed well
The remnants of
Hurricane Isaac spun out over Newfoundland in early October without
making landfall anywhere on its route north. With Isaac's last
gasp, the 2006 Atlantic storm season came to an end.
cautioned that the soft season was probably a fluke.
"We got a
much-welcome break, but this is a one-season break," said Gerry
Bell, the 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
Ocean in late summer and put a damper on the Atlantic storm season
by shearing off would-be storms before they
with dry conditions over the Atlantic basin and dust-laden Saharan
winds blowing off west Africa, where many hurricanes begin as
thunderstorms rolling off the coast, helped steer storms away from
land in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean.
It was a far
different story in the Pacific, where storm activity was predicted
to be slower than normal but was more active than ever, There were
17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, of which six were major.
Fortunately, most of the big storms barely brushed Mexico's west
coast. Resorts in the Cabo San Lucas area evacuated guests on
several occasions as a precaution.
Bell urged people
not to become complacent about the 2007 season, which starts June
1. The Atlantic region is still on a high cycle of hurricane
activity that began in 1995. The high cycle could last another 10
years or more, he said.
"Only three years
in the past 10 have produced below-average numbers of hurricanes,"
Bell said. "The years were 1997, 2002 and this year. Each year
featured an El Nino."
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers,
send e-mail to [email protected]