U.S. slips through season without a major hurricane

WASHINGTON (RNN) - The U.S. closes out one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record Tuesday without a major hurricane.

This season was packed with 19 named storms, 12 of which became hurricanes, and five reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher - all in range of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) 2010 seasonal outlooks issued on May 27.

According to the NOAA, the 2010 hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin tied with 1969 for the second most-active season on record.

In the U.S., Texas was hit the hardest with floods and winds from Tropical Storms Alex and Hermine. Alex caused some $42 million in damage and hit more than 300 while, while seven people were killed by flood waters from Hermine.

Tropical Storms Bonnie and Earl worried many in the Gulf and North Carolina's Atlantic Coast, respectively, but caused little damage.

"As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S.," National Weather Service Director Dr. Jack Hayes said in a news release. "For that reason you could say the season was a gentle giant."

NOAA credits several large-scale climate features such as record warm waters in the Atlantic, favorable winds from Africa and weak wind shear aided by La Nina for influencing the 2010 hurricane season, the same reasons NOAA predicted a 90 percent chance for an above-average season.

NOAA spokesman Dennis Feltgen explained that short-term weather patterns are to blame for where a hurricane travels after it is formed. The jet stream's position in the Eastern U.S. acted like a barrier, he said, keeping storms in the Atlantic and from making landfall in the U.S.

"We are very fortunate this year," he said.

Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 each year.

NOAA will issue outlooks for the 2011 hurricane season in May of next year. Feltgen noted that the 2010 season has no bearing on the 2011 hurricane season.

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