This year's Atlantic hurricane season fell far short of its potentially "very active" forecast expectations, as no major storms formed for the first time in nearly two decades, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.
As of early August there had been a 70 percent chance for a total of 13 to 19 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes, of which three to five could be Category 3 or higher, said an update to a May report, both of them from the Climate Prediction Center.
But the season will probably end up "the sixth-least-active" since 1950, "in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes," NOAA said. For the first time since 1994, no major hurricanes -- Category 3 or above -- formed in the Atlantic basin, with two such strong storms considered average, NOAA said.
For Long Island, it was "a major plus" that the region could continue to recover this year from superstorm Sandy, without having to deal with "compounding storms," said Meghan McPherson, program manager for Adelphi University's emergency management graduate programs.
However, she said, "extreme weather is still happening," pointing to out-of-season tornadoes in the Midwest and the powerful typhoon in the Philippines.
Her concern with this year's reprieve is that "you run the major risk of people becoming complacent" while "stronger and more devastating storms are going to be more the norm as time goes on."
This season, which started June 1 and officially ends Saturday, saw just two hurricanes -- Ingrid and Humberto -- compared to the six that are considered average for a season. Ingrid and Humberto did not make landfall or reach beyond Category 1 intensity, NOAA said.
There were 13 named storms, with only the first, Tropical Storm Andrea, making U.S. landfall, affecting parts of Florida, eastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina, NOAA said.
"This unexpectedly low activity is linked to an unpredictable atmospheric pattern that prevented the growth of storms by producing exceptionally dry, sinking air and strong vertical wind shear in much of the main hurricane formation region, which spans the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "Also detrimental to some tropical cyclones this year were several strong outbreaks of dry and stable air that originated over Africa."