Florida escapes hit by major hurricane for another year
The squiggly lines of storm paths are everywhere – in the Atlantic Ocean and even the Gulf of Mexico. But none, thankfully, crossed the state of Florida. During a busy hurricane season that saw 18 named storms, with seven of those morphing into hurricanes, the Sunshine State was not impacted a single time. "It was an incredibly good year for us," said Michelle Palmer, deputy state meteorologist for Florida. "We like calm seasons."The only names we didn't make it to in the 2011 list were Tammy, Vince and Whitney. And while hurricane season doesn't officially end until Wednesday, forecasters say we have likely seen the last of tropical activity for the year. Tropical Storms Bret and Emily teased the east coast of the state, and the remnants of Hurricane Rina got close to the west coast. "But no other storm really got anywhere near us," said Nicole Carlisle, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin. That wasn't the case elsewhere. Irene became the first hurricane of the season in August and made two landfalls in the U.S., leaving 56 deaths in its wake amid widespread flooding and causing damage of more than $10 billion. A slow-moving Tropical Storm Lee dumped heavy rains in September over much of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi and eventually into New York and Pennsylvania, causing about $1 billion in damage. Forecasters had predicted the season would see more activity than a normal one, which averages 10 named storms and six hurricanes. They called for between 14 and 19 named storms and seven to 10 hurricanes, Carlisle said, with three to five of those growing into major hurricanes. "It looks like their forecast was pretty well on the mark," Carlisle said. "It was a pretty busy season." A one-two combo of high pressure in the Atlantic Ocean and a series of low pressure troughs over the continental United States created the atmospheric conditions that spared Florida from any tropical wrath, the forecaster said. Those two things helped keep much of the tropical troubles well out in the Atlantic Ocean away from Florida. This year was similar to the 2010 season, Palmer said, when there were a lot of storms but they nearly all stayed away from the state. The Bermuda high pressure over the Atlantic was farther east than a typical year, Palmer said. And multiple troughs of low pressure and cold fronts sinking southward over the United States helped create a protective shield for the East Coast, she added.