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Whew! Record hurricane season ends

By Staff | Nov 29, 2008

Cross your fingers, the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season ends Sunday.
Then again, maybe you won’t have to cross your fingers.
“It looks like you’re going to have beautiful weather this weekend (in Cape Coral),” said Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck with Accuweather.com. “(This) evening will be really nice.”
Cape Coral will see highs in the 80s with lows in the 60s tonight and Sunday, Smerbeck said. A cold front through the Gulf of Mexico could bring a shower or two through Southwest Florida Sunday evening, but the area will likely dry up by Monday, slightly cooler with highs in the 70s.
The predicted-to-be pristine weather is a stark contrast to this year’s record-breaking, over-active hurricane season.
During the season, from Jun. 1 to Nov. 30, there were 16 named hurricanes and tropical storms; eight of which were hurricanes; and five of which were category-3 or higher. The numbers were slightly higher than Accuweather.com weather forecasters predicted — 15 named storms, 10 hurricanes, three major hurricanes.
The yearly average is 11 named storms, Smerbeck said.
“We’ve just been in a high cycle of hurricanes,” Smerbeck said. “It looks like this year is no different.”
The average has been higher than normal for a few years, he said.
“There may have been a little less sheer across the Atlantic Basin, but that’s all relative,” he said. “There’s a lot of ingredients that go into the number of hurricanes and tropical storms. You have to have the right atmospheric conditions, you have to have the right sheer and warm water.”
The number of storms also depends on whether the Atlantic Basin is affected by El Nino, which is less favorable to hurricanes, or La Nina, which allows storms to form more easily, Smerbeck said.
“El Nino and La Nina can determine how much sheer comes east across atlantic basin,” he said.
This year, it was in a “neutral phase” coming out of Il Nina, possibly contributing to more favorable storm development.
Additionally, an average of 100 disturbances come off the coast of Africa each year, and sand picked up from the Sahara desert can affect whether storms can form, Smerbeck said.
Most devastating of the storms this season was Category 4 Ike, causing billions of dollars in damages and making initial U.S. landfall in Galveston, Texas, as a Category 2 storm. News reports cited widespread flooding and wind damage in the Galveston area as a result of the storm.
Tropical Storm Fay made four landfalls in Florida, a record for landfalls in a single state.
Fay, with a maximum of 65 mph winds, left pockets of flooding in its wake as it zig-zagged across the peninsula.
“That’s the kind (of storm) that will just give you lots of rain,” Smerbeck said.
Hurricane Paloma was the most recent storm this season, he said.
Paloma, a Category 4 storm, along with hurricanes Ike and Gustav, struck Cuba consecutively. The storms broke the record for the number of consecutive major hurricanes to strike the country, according to information from the Associated Press.
Having hurricanes out of season, sometimes into December, isn’t uncommon, Smerbeck said.
“There is one area of low pressure in central Atlantic that we’re watching right now,” he said. “But it’s going over cooler waters so we’re not concerned with it.”