"Peak" of hurricane season fizzles


September is, statistically at least, the peak of hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin. But this year has been notably anemic.  We were busier in August.

Only two named storms cropped up during the month that ends tonight, compared with four in August. Tropical Storm Erika formed east of the Leeward Islands on Sept. 1, drifted westward for three days and wheezed to an end southeast of the Dominican Republic. Winds peaked at about 60 mph., and the storm dumped a lot of rain on the islands. 

Fred was a bit more impressive. It formed Sept. 7 and blew up to hurricane force before expiring Sept. 12 near where it was born in the far eastern Atlantic. Fred was only the second hurricane of the season.

Tropical Depression 8 formed briefly on Sept. 25, but fell apart the next day without growing strong enough to earn a name.

Jeff Masters, on his Wunder Blog, is calling this the quietest September in the Atlantic since 1997. 

In all this season, the Atlantic Basin has generated just six named storms, including two - Bill and Fred - that reached hurricane force. In fact, both Bill (Aug. 15-24) and Fred reached "major" (Cat. 3) strength.

The U.S. mainland has been spared. Tropical Storm Claudette, in mid-August, stirred things up along the Florida/Alabama Gulf Shore. Bill kicked up a lot of wind and waves along the Atlantic coast all the way to the Canadian Maritimes before expiring in the Atlantic. The photo above shows Ocean City, N.J. beachgoers getting a briefing on Bill-caused rip currents. 

Danny did the same in the Carolinas late in the month before being absorbed by a frontal system. But that was about it, to the relief of millions. 

Hurricane forecasters have been lowering their expectations all season, pointing to the moderate El Nino conditions developing in the Pacific Ocean. El Ninos tend to suppress hurricane formation in the Atlantic.

Back in late May, for example, Colorado State University prognosticators William Gray and Phil Klotzbach forecast 11 names storms, with five predicted to become hurricanes, and two that would reach "major" proportions.

In June, the National Hurricane Center expected 9 to 14 named storms, with four to seven hurricanes one to three "major" storms.  

By August, CSU had cut its forecast to 10 names storms, with four hurricanes, two reaching major status. The feds were by then looking for seven to 10 named storms, with three to six hurricanes, one to two becoming major.

Give them credit. We have seen two major hurricanes. And we could still see some additional activity. But there is nothing happening in the tropics at the moment. 

(Top, AP Photo/Jim Gerberich; Bottom, SUN PHOTO/John Makely/Surfing Isabel's waves in Ocean City, Md., 2003)

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