What if you threw a hurricane season and nobody came?

November 30th, 2006

Today marks the last day of the 2006 hurricane season. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the season had been canceled months ago. It’s been so quiet this year, as compared to last year’s crazy season, that we might as well not even have had a so-called hurricane season.

Let’s review.

In 2005 we had 28 named storms, requiring us to dip into the Greek alphabet to name them all. Fifteen storms reached hurricane strength and seven were major hurricanes (3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale). Four hurricanes reached category 5. Epsilon did not reach hurricane strength until December, and tropical storm Zeta formed in late December and did not dissipate until January. Of course, Katrina was the most damaging storm of the season; she made landfall on the Florida peninsula before crossing the Gulf to ravage New Orleans. Here in Texas it was Rita that had our attention. She reached a strength of category 5, and appeared to be headed straight for Houston at category 4, forcing us to abandon Pine Gulch to seek higher ground. Over 2,200 deaths were blamed on the 2005 storms, and an estimated $120 billion in property damage. Most of those deaths and damage were caused by Katrina; only the unnamed 1900 Galveston storm cost more Americans their lives.

Predictions for this season looked nearly as bad. In their last prediction before the season began in June, Colorado State University predicted the season would bring 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes. NOAA predicted 13–16 named storms, 8–10 hurricanes, and 4–6 major hurricanes.

But the season was far calmer than predicted. The actual numbers were: 9 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and only 2 major hurricanes. No hurricane reached category 4 or 5. Gordon and Helene, the two category 3 storms, formed far out in the Atlantic and never threatened to make landfall. No storms made landfall in the United States at hurricane strength (Ernesto had been a hurricane, but by the time he reached Florida, he had fallen to tropical storm strength). No storms at all formed in October or November. 11 fatalities and about $184 million dollars in damage were attributed to 2006 storms.

Compared to 2005, this year’s season has been a real yawner. And for that I am thankful.

Eric Berger has a nice article at the Chronicle: Goodbye, hurricane season.

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