NOAA details 2011 hurricane season

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The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season officially ends Wednesday, having produced 19 tropical storms, of which seven became hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

The level of activity matched the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s predictions and continues the trend of active hurricane seasons that began in 1995, NOAA said in a statement.

The 19 tropical storms represent the third-highest total (tied with 1887, 1995, and 2010) since records began in 1851 and are well above the average of 11. However, the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes is only slightly above the average of six and two, respectively.

This year’s totals include a post-storm upgrade of Tropical Storm Nate to hurricane status and the addition of a short-lived, unnamed tropical storm that formed in early September between Bermuda and Nova Scotia. The unnamed storm, along with several other weak, short-lived named storms, could have gone undetected without modern satellite technology.

Irene was the lone hurricane to hit the United States this year, and the first one to do so since Ike struck southeast Texas in 2008. Irene also was the most significant tropical cyclone to strike the Northeast since Hurricane Bob in 1991.

“Irene broke the ‘hurricane amnesia’ that can develop when so much time lapses between landfalling storms,” said Jack Hayes, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “This season is a reminder that storms can hit any part of our coast and that all regions need to be prepared each and every season.”

As far as landfalling major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with top winds of 111 mph and greater) are concerned, the lull continued, and 2011 marked a record six straight years without one hitting the United States. The last one to do so was Wilma in 2005.

NOAA will issue its initial outlook for the 2012 hurricane season in May just prior to the official start of the season on June 1.

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