El Nino helps keep 2009 hurricane season in check

Thanks to the appearance of El Nino, the 2009 hurricane season turned out to be quieter than expected with just three hurricanes, none of which came close to homes in Indian River County.

In all, there were nine named storms and two tropical depressions that didn’t reach the 39 mph threshold for being named. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

In May, the  National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration predicted there would be as many as 14 named storms, 7 of which could have become hurricanes, and 3 of which would be major.

Last week, NOAA said 2009 was the ninth weakest storm season in the past 37 years.

Many meteorologists said the Pacific El Nino effect helped contain major storm development. El Nino produces westerly winds across the Caribbean and Atlantic that dissipates storms in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean before they can threaten the United States.

The season began early with Tropical Depression 1 on May 28, but there was no further activity until August, the busiest month of the season with four named systems. Among them was Hurricane Bill, which reached major Category 4 status with 135 mph sustained winds.

Bill skirted up the Eastern seaboard and did most of its damage far to the north.

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