Video: Goodbye hurricane season

By Kerry Sanders Correspondent
NBC News
updated 11/27/2006 1:23:42 PM ET 2006-11-27T18:23:42

It wasn't supposed to be like this, but no one's complaining.

"I always look up and I say, 'Thank you, Jesus,'" says New Orleans resident Herbert Goldan. "You know, I say, 'Thanks that the storm didn't come.'"

The usually busy National Hurricane Center in Miami had a rare quiet season, following last year's record 27 named storms. Government forecasters predicted 13 to 15 named storms this year, with 8 to 10 of those becoming hurricanes. But as this season closes, there were only nine named storms and five hurricanes.

Why didn't those few hurricanes make landfall in the U.S.? In part, scientists credit dust storms blowing dry air off the coast of Africa.

"Suddenly, you come from a tropical environment and the storm moved right into one of these Saharan dust storms and it becomes quite hostile and it can weaken quite rapidly," says Jason Dunion, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration. "We saw a few storms this year that weakened very rapidly."

The other unexpected phenomenon? El Nino — a shift in Pacific water temperatures that brought that region more storm activity, but reduced conditions for Atlantic hurricanes.

"This is not an end to an active hurricane era," says Jerry Bell with the National Weather Service. "El Nino developed so we had reduced activity. That's a one year deal."

It was a huge relief for residents in hurricane weary Florida, which was hit by eight hurricanes in the last two years.

In New Orleans, where they're still clearing destroyed homes, those rebuilding feared another Katrina-type storm this year would finish them off.

"We're very fortunate that we didn't have to worry about it this year, but there will be other years," says resident Jodee Daroca.

Even if you don't live in the hurricane zone, there's reason to be thankful.

Experts say if we'd had even one destructive hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico this year, it likely would have driven gas prices to more than $4 a gallon.

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