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Hurricane season unusually quiet

Editorial

It may turn out that one of the most significant things that happened this summer was something — or, more exactly, somethings — that didn’t happen.

As summer was approaching, weather prognosticators were predicting a rip-roaring summer in which tropical storms would be shooting up the Atlantic like Roman candles. We’ve seen that in some past hurricane seasons, and the expectations were that this was going to be a busy, busy summer for tropical storms.

But a funny thing has happened as autumn nears. The Gulf of Mexico has been quiet and the eight named storms that have developed so far in the Atlantic have yielded only one hurricane — Humberto — which was expected to downgrade to a tropical storm by Saturday.

In its season prediction in early August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there was a 70 percent likelihood that 2013 would be an above-normal season (12-28 tropical storms with seven-15 hurricanes with three-seven of those hurricanes major ones) and a 95 percent chance that it would be at least near-normal, which would mean 10-15 tropical storms with four-nine hurricanes, with one-four major ones. The chance of 2013 being a below-normal year — nine or fewer tropical storms with two-four hurricanes and no more than two major ones — was estimated at 5 percent.

Why the hurricane season has been quiet has been a bit of a mystery to researchers, but regardless of the reason, the effect has been beneficial. Despite Middle East tensions, the summer driving season came and went without pump price spikes from a storm slamming into an Gulf of Mexico oil rigs. Paying more than three bucks for a gallon of gas isn’t fun, but it beats the daylights out of spending $4-$5 a gallon. And the more moderate fuel cost has kept items such as groceries from skyrocketing because of transportation costs.

Will the calm hurricane season continue for us? Will the United States miss a hurricane landfall? The jury’s still out, and it will be for a while. Even though the start of fall is only a few days away, the hurricane season goes past Thanksgiving — plenty of time for big storms to form and move toward us.

But so far, so good. Let’s keep our fingers crossed, but also keep some fresh batteries in the weather radio — just in case.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board