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Third-busiest hurricane season winds to a close with little impact to the U.S.

It was the third-busiest hurricane season in 160 years.

September and October never have produced more tropical storms.

Five storms became major hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph or more.

In a year that could have produced hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damage, it appears the United States will escape one of the busiest hurricanes seasons on record with relatively minor damage and a handful of deaths.

"The big word would be 'lucky,' " said Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay.

Water temperatures are dropping, wind shear increasing and the other factors hurricanes need to spawn and intensify are becoming less and less favorable, portending the likely end of this season, which runs through Nov. 30.

"I think the likelihood of another hurricane is very low, and it's even lower that it would hit the U.S.," said Peter Ray, a meteorology professor at Florida State University who independently studies hurricanes.

This season will go down as the third-busiest season on record with 19 named storms, trailing only 2005 (28 named storms) and 1933 (21 named storms), according to National Hurricane Center records dating to 1851. Twelve of the 19 were hurricanes and five had winds of at least 111 mph.

But unlike other years with so many storms, this season saw only one named storm — Tropical Storm Bonnie — make a direct impact in the United States. No hurricanes touched U.S. soil.

"That's remarkable," said Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology for weatherunderground.com.

Such an active but quiet season for the United States is extraordinarily rare:

• For seasons with 10 or more hurricanes, this is the first year since 1893 that no hurricane made a direct hit on the United States.

• The 12 hurricanes this year tie 1969 for second most hurricanes in a season, trailing only 2005, which had 15.

• This is the fifth consecutive year the United States has not been hit by a major hurricane. The last time that happened was between 1910 and 1914. The United States has never gone six years without a Category 3 or higher hurricane striking the country.

• The eight named storms in September tied with 2002 for the busiest September. The five hurricanes in October fell one short of the record set back in 1870 for that month.

But the active stretch came as no surprise. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 14 to 20 named storms, eight to 12 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes.

"It turned out as advertised," said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

All summer, a persistent low-pressure system knocked storms off their westward track as they chugged across the Atlantic, turning them to the east.

Storms that formed in more southerly waters were prevented from striking much of the United States by a high-pressure system that hung over the southeastern United States for most of the summer.

"The patterns seem to get locked in," said Clay.

The seemingly quiet summer poses challenges for next year's hurricane season, Clay said, noting that hurricane apathy was a big issue this year.

"We say the same thing: You should prepare the same, as if it's the year you're going to get it."

Third-busiest hurricane season winds to a close with little impact to the U.S. 11/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 9:45pm]

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