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Local News

Quiet 2014 Hurricane Season Ends

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NOAA
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The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season is officially in the books, ending up with below average activity. But officials are reminding coastal residents not to let down their guard.

After numerous predictions had already been made, including from William Gray and his team at Colorado State University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weighed in. It predicted 8-13 named storms; 3-6 hurricanes and of those, 1-2 major storms.

Here are the final numbers for 2014: eight named storms and six hurricanes – two of them major. Those are well below the 1995-2013 averages of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. As predicted, a developing El Niño helped keep things quiet in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

“And one way El Nino suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan last May, “is by increasing the amount of wind shear, which inhibits cyclonic development and growth, and so reduces the number and intensity of storms.”

“I was hopeful it was going to be inactive,” said John Dosh, Escambia County Emergency Management Director. He says an “active season” is relative.

“Typically, all it takes is one storm to make it an active year for our community,” he said.

For the ninth consecutive year, no major hurricanes – Category-3 or higher -- hit the U.S. Arthur, which made landfall in North Carolina in July, was a Cat-2 storm. Also for the ninth straight year, no hurricane made landfall in Florida. Wilma in 2005 was the last major hurricane to hit both, coming ashore near Cape Romano.

For the most part, the processes and technology used in a hurricane situation by Escambia County were unchanged in 2014.

“Shelters were the same, a lot of procedures were the same,” said Dosh. “Evacuation studies are fairly new, so I don’t anticipate anything on that for the next couple of years unless they get us some new technology or provide us some new information.”

But that doesn’t mean the Emergency Operations center gathered dust. The facility was active during last April’s massive flooding. Dosh draws some parallels between that and tracking a storm.

“What we do basically is ‘consequence management,’ Dosh said. “That kept us very busy, but (so did) keeping an eye on the tropics during the season. We could have flooding during a storm, we had flooding during that rain event. It’s dealing with the community’s needs.”

The lack of hurricanes this year also brought relatively light carnage. Only five people were killed – four by Hurricane Gonzalo in the Lesser Antilles, and one by Tropical Storm Dolly in Mexico. Damages from all storms totaled less than $500 million.

Even though we’re entering the “off-season” when it comes to hurricanes, it’s best to go ahead and put together your disaster response kit and make your plans.

When the 2015 hurricane prediction begin coming out in the next few weeks, Escambia County Emergency Chief John Dosh says they’ll treat them the same as those in previous years.

“Kind of a grain of salt,” said Dosh. “We’re going to prepare every year for an active season. That way, we’re ready to go if we need to. If we don’t need to, then it was a good exercise and we move on to the next disaster.”