Cover Story: Hurricane season 2009 - Quiet so far

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - On this week we mark the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Hugo in the Carolinas.. one surprise development.. it looks like predictions for an active hurricane season this year will miss the mark.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson reports in our Cover Story.

This may go down as one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record.  And chances of us getting a big whopper like a Hugo are getting less and less each day.

It has saved us money.. and in more ways than one.

"It's odd to see in September."

He checks the National Hurricane Center's website every day.. and is amazed.

"No Tropical Cyclones at this time."

Meteorologist Al Conklin says he can remember.. like planes lining up to take off from Charlotte Douglas.. seeing this time of year tropical storms lining up heading our way in the Atlantic.

"Things are really quiet. They've been that way now for the last week or more," he says.

The season started later than usual.. it was August 15th before we had our first named storm and it's been quieter than usual.

Six named storms.. only two became hurricanes.

The weather service was predicting we'd wind up with as many as 14 named storms.. seven hurricanes.

There is still nine more weeks of the season to go... it ends November 30th.. but as the graph Al showed us says.. once hurricane season peaks September 10th.. storms become less likely.

Days get shorter.. nights are cooler.. and those deep ocean waters begin cooling off.

It's in the warm ocean waters that hurricanes form.

"Not to say that we can't get a tropical storm or a hurricane but chances each passing day are less and less."

So how in the world did this become a dud of a hurricane season so far?

Thank El Nino.. in the Pacific Ocean.. sending strong winds westward knocking down any thunderstorms that form.

"Those thunderstorm clouds are trying to develop and they're getting the tops sheared off.  And if they can't grow then you normally can't get a lot of tropical development."

Which gives us a chance to catch our breath.. saving us from this.. Hurricane Floyd Eastern North Carolina 10 years ago.

It was just four years ago.. the year of Katrina.. the weather service ran out of names and had to start over.

Not only does a quiet hurricane season save property and lives.. it's kept gasoline in check.

Oil fields in the Gulf haven't been touched.. and that's saved us on every fill up.

So is this trend of hurricanes going out to sea going to last?

"There are certain years where we just get into a pattern and it maybe more than a couple of years. It maybe three or four years thrown together where things are just quiet for awhile. and that is the case this year."

If we make it through 2009 without a hurricane striking the U.S. it'll be the fourth year in the last ten.

For those storm trackers out there.. you'll recall that Claudette hit the Florida panhandle mid-August.. but it was downgraded to a tropical storm when it came ashore.. not a hurricane.