SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A "gentle giant" of a hurricane season ends today, after whipping up 19 named storms, most of which had little effect on the U.S.
"Hurricane season was wonderful," said Clayton Scott, director of the Chatham Emergency Management Agency.
The season, which began June 1, brought just one close brush with evacuation to the Savannah area and even that was one most residents were unaware of.
"We were within one hour of initiating special needs and nursing home evacuation," Scott said of plans surrounding late August's Hurricane Earl. "The storm was coming up the coast. The models showed it going to east but it kept coming west."
Just before Scott needed to make the call on evacuation, the Category 4 hurricane shifted east.
Its winds eventually brushed North Carolina's Outer Banks before it made landfall as a Category 1 storm in Nova Scotia.
The season's total of 19 named storms tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record. Of those, 12 became hurricanes - tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.
These totals are within the ranges predicted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's forecast which called for 14-23 named storms; 8-14 hurricanes; and 3-7 major hurricanes. An average Atlantic season produces 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
"As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S." said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA's National Weather Service. "For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant."
The entire Atlantic basin wasn't as fortunate as the U.S. Hurricane Tomas brought heavy rain to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and several storms, including Alex, battered eastern Mexico and Central America with heavy rain, mud slides and deadly flooding.
Large-scale climate features including record warm Atlantic waters, favorable winds coming off Africa and weak wind shear aided by La Nina helped the large number of storms to form.
But short-term weather patterns proved favorable for making many of those tropical systems into so-called fish storms - the jet stream's position steered them over open water. Also, because many storms formed in the extreme eastern Atlantic, they re-curved back out to sea without threatening land.