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Third-busiest hurricane season in history winding down

David Fleshler, South Florida Sun Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An active hurricane season that saw North America peppered with landfalls appears to have fizzled out early, with forecasters saying they don’t expect any more storms.

The disappearance of a potential subtropical storm in the middle of the Atlantic Friday left the ocean clear of any threats with less than three weeks to go before hurricane season ends Nov. 30. While no one will rule out late-season action, the season has been extraordinarily quiet since early October, with just a single tropical storm forming since then.

Cooler water and a high amount of wind shear — the high-altitude cross winds that can tear apart storms — have created a hostile environment for hurricanes.

“All signs so far are pointing to no additional activity over the next couple of weeks,” said Randy Adkins, senior meteorologist at AccuWeather, the private forecasting service. “It does appear wind shear is going to remain relatively strong over the next couple of weeks. With that in mind, we’re not anticipating anything that could become a threat.”

The quiet end comes after the third-busiest season on record, with 21 named storms, exhausting the list of names designated for this year, from Ana to Wanda. Also high was the number of landfalls absorbed by the United States, with seven storms striking the country, well above the three seen in a typical season. Although Florida was hit three times, none of the storms came close to South Florida.

Only one of the U.S. landfalls involved a major hurricane, which means one of at least Category 3 strength. Hurricane Ida slammed into the Louisiana coast near New Orleans Aug. 29 as a strong Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds and killed more than 100 people, drowning residents of the New York metro area in basement apartments.

But aside from Ida, there was only one other landfall from a hurricane. Hurricane Nicholas struck Texas as a Category 1 storm and quickly lost power. The rest were tropical storms, some of minimal strength, such as Danny, which hit South Carolina with 40-mph winds, and Mindy, which hit the Florida Panhandle with 45-mph winds.

“Most of the storms were fairly weak,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist for Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. “The number of storms making landfall was high. One was very significant, the other was a hurricane for about 15 minutes.”

 

Although the 21 named storms this season amount to the third-highest number on record, he said the more significant figure is the number of hurricanes. There were seven this season, which is average.

“In general,” he said, “hurricanes are the storms that cause the damage.”

The relentless series of storms came to an abrupt stop at the end of September, with only one storm, Tropical Storm Wanda, forming in October or November.

By then, dry air and strong wind shear prevailed over the oceanic regions where storms form. Wind shear — where wind tugs at a hurricane from different directions — disrupts the concentration of thunderstorms necessary to form the core of a hurricane or tropical storm, said Jonathan Erdman, senior meteorologist for Weather.com.

He said the strong wind shear is likely to continue through the end of the season. There’s a faint chance a tropical or subtropical storm could form south of Azores in the central Atlantic early next week, he said. If that happened, forecasters would have to resort to the first name on their supplemental list, which is Adria. But otherwise, he said, it won’t amount to much.

“It’s no threat to land,” he said. “All it would do is check off another named storm box for the season.”

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©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel. Visit at sun-sentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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