November 26, 2008

Hurricane season typical — except for Ike

Storm watchers say this year's U.S. hurricane season was typical with one exception: Hurricane Ike, which showed how misleading labeling hurricanes can be.

A Category 2 storm, Hurricane Ike bombarded the Texas Gulf Coast in September, causing $11.4 billion in damage, which Texas A&M atmospheric sciences Professor John Nielsen-Gammon says makes it the most expensive storm in Lone Star history.

We learned from Ike that a storm surge even from a Category 2 storm can be devastating, said Nielsen-Gammon, who also is the state climatologist. Texas had three storms that hit the coast -- Ike, Dolly and Eduard. Dolly was also a Category 2 and Eduard never exceeded tropical storm strength. Ike will be the one everyone remembers from the 2008 season,

There were 15 named storms in 2008, about what was expected when the season began June 1 and officially ends Nov. 30, Nielsen-Gammon said in a news release issued by the university.

Nielsen-Gammon said some studies indicate the number of hurricanes hovered around the average for the past 20 years, but the storms' overall intensity seemed to be increasing.

But in the long run, trends don't matter much when a storm hits where you live, he said.