Hurricane season ends with no storm hitting U.S.

SAVANNAH - The Atlantic hurricane season ended Monday with barely a whimper: Not a single hurricane came ashore in the United States.

Since June, when the season began, just nine named storms developed. Only three became hurricanes, and those stayed out at sea or weakened before passing over land.

Two tropical storms made landfall in the United States, causing little more than rain and some beach erosion.

"We had a great, great year," said Chris Vecsey, a salesman at Top Gun Tackle in Orange Beach, Ala., near where Tropical Storm Ida slogged ashore in November. "Last year we had Gustav and Ike and a couple of other storms that didn't even hit here. And with all the hype, it ruined us. It just didn't happen this year."

The 2009 season was on target with the lower end of forecasters' predictions.

Before the season began June 1, the National Hurricane Center had anticipated nine to 14 storms, with four to seven hurricanes - a prediction the Miami-based center scaled back slightly in August before the arrival of the season's first storm, Tropical Storm Ana.

James Franklin, the center's chief hurricane specialist, credited much of the quiet season to El Nino, the periodic warming of the central Pacific Ocean. El Nino, he said, produced strong winds in the Atlantic that cut down storms before they could develop into hurricanes.

Franklin said forecasters also noticed drier conditions in the atmosphere, which limited the potential for storms.

"Lately, we've had busy seasons. To get a year this quiet, it's a little bit unusual."

The 2009 hurricane season was the quietest since 2006, which also had nine total storms and five hurricanes, none of which made landfall in the United States.

To find a season with fewer storms, you have to look back to 1997. That year, there were seven storms, including three hurricanes. One of them, Hurricane Danny, killed at least nine people as it stalled over the Alabama coast and flooded parts of the Carolinas, causing $100 million in damage.

The 2009 season was not all mild.

Tropical Storm Claudette poured up to 4.5 inches of rain when it made landfall at Fort Walton Beach on the Florida Panhandle in August, then quickly fizzled. Also in August, Hurricane Bill, a large Category 4 storm, was blamed for the deaths of two swimmers in Florida and Maine as it passed the East Coast.

Ida was a hurricane but weakened to a tropical storm before it came ashore in Alabama about three weeks ago. Its remnants swept up the East Coast, bringing heavy rain and flooding from the Carolinas to New Jersey.

The third 2009 hurricane, Fred, fizzled in the ocean without touching land.