Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Low pressure systems have spared the United States this hurricane season

As the 2010 hurricane season enters its final weeks, this year is poised to go down as one of the most extraordinary in history.

For what didn't happen.

It has been one of the busiest seasons in many years, with 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes packing winds of at least 111 mph. But the United States has been largely spared the type of catastrophic damage associated with hurricanes because of persistent low pressure systems dropping down from the north.

"I don't think there's ever been quite a season like this," said Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology for

Since 1995, the United States has been hit by one in every three hurricanes that form in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico, Masters said.

The strongest winds to hit the nation so far this year came when Hurricane Earl grazed North Carolina's Outer Banks. Tropical Storm Bonnie, the only named storm to make landfall in the United States, produced 40 mph winds in South Florida. Hermine, also a tropical storm, downed power lines and some trees in Texas after hitting land in Mexico.

"You could say we have dodged a bullet," said Dr. Peter Ray, a meteorology professor at Florida State University who independently studies hurricanes.

Of course, hurricane season isn't over.

With five weeks remaining, the greatest threat for development now lies in the western Caribbean, where warm, 84-degree waters are ripe for hurricane formation, said Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

An average of 2.3 named storms form after Oct. 20, and hurricanes that develop in November nearly always make landfall because they form near land in the western Caribbean, Masters said.

"Certainly if you live on the Gulf Coast of Florida you're not out of the woods yet," he said.

But conditions are becoming less favorable for hurricane development.

Gulf waters are cooling and wind sheer is increasing because huge low-pressure systems from the north are pushing farther south in the Atlantic, Ray said.

He predicts the United States won't be hit by a major hurricane this season.

"The likelihood of having a hurricane impacting the United States diminishes now every day," Ray said.

Hurricane forecasters predicted this year to be above average, setting off alarm bells across the state and triggering fears among emergency managers of hurricane amnesia.

But forecasters could never have predicted that so many hurricanes would miss.

"[It] is a pretty good roll of the dice," Masters said.

Hurricane after hurricane, especially when most were forming off the coast of Africa, have veered north as they churned across the Atlantic.

Brown attributes the track to persistent low-pressure systems strong enough to knock the powerful tempests off their westerly track and push them east.

While powerful storms have formed in the Atlantic, no major hurricanes have formed in the gulf yet.

Mike Clay, senior meteorologist for Bay News 9, said the number of storms predicted doesn't really matter. It just takes one bad storm to make it a rough season, he said.

"To the general public,'' he said, "the numbers don't really mean anything."

Low pressure systems have spared the United States this hurricane season 10/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 18, 2010 9:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival wraps up with Above and Beyond, more at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    The first numbers trickled in on Sunday, and they didn't look great.

    Louis the Child performed at the Sunset Music Festival at Raymond James Stadium on May 28, 2017.
  2. Philippines forces make gains in city under siege by ISIS-linked militants

    MARAWI, Philippines — Philippine forces say they now control most of a southern city where militants linked to the Islamic State group launched a bloody siege nearly a week ago.

  3. Rays exhausted but happy after 15-inning win over Twins (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Before the Rays eventually won Sunday's 6½-hour, 15-inning marathon against the Twins 8-6, they did plenty to lose it. And we need to get that out of the way first.

    The Rays’ Evan Longoria enjoys a laugh after scoring, barely, to tie it in the ninth on Steven Souza Jr.’s two-out single.
  4. Tom Jones' Two Cents: ABC's Indy 500 coverage is stellar again

    TV and Radio

    Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Best coverage

    Takuma Sato left, celebrates after winning the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves is a little late passing him. ABC’s coverage of the race is stellar throughout, with plenty of extras but no fake drama.
  5. Takuma Sato surprise winner of wreck-filled Indy 500

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato, a journeyman driver, became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday when he held off three-time champion Helio Castroneves in a 230-mph wheel-rubbing duel to the finish.

    Scott Dixon’s car goes over the top of Jay Howard, soaring so high that Helio Castroneves drove under it while it was airborne. Stunningly, there were no serious injuries.