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Storm season thus far the least stormy since ‘94, NOAA says

(Oct. 25, 2013) Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29, 2012, sparing Ocean City the brunt of its damage.

One year later, the city so far has escaped hurricane damage in 2013, thanks to some unpredictable weather patterns.

“With less than six weeks left, the 2013 season has the fewest number of hurricanes since 1982,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman and Meteorologist Dennis Feltgen.

He added: “The last year without the formation of a major hurricane is 1994.”

As of Oct. 22, the 2013 hurricane season had produced 12 named storms, including two hurricanes, but no major hurricanes (category 3 or higher).

With NOAA predictions earlier this summer calling for a 70 percent chance of above-normal storm activity during the season, residents have weather to thank for the calm skies.

Air across the tropical Atlantic Ocean has been exceptionally dry this hurricane season. Combined with sinking air — called subsidence — that tends to quash storm activity that helps form hurricanes, this pattern has helped offset other weather that helps build hurricanes, such as warm sea surface temperatures and strong west-bound African winds, Feltgen said.

“In other words, there were plenty of positive factors for above average activity,” he said. “What was not anticipated was all the sinking motion and resulting dryness — factors that occasionally disrupt what would otherwise be an active season, but which are impossible to predict.”

While the below-normal activity is welcomed, it is not usual, the meteorologist said.

Looking at the hurricane return period — how often storms of a given intensity are expected — Ocean City is due a hurricane every 15 years, and a major hurricane every 44 years. So an inactive 2013 season is “fortunate, but not unusual when you look at the historical record,” Feltgen said.

Even with most of 2013’s hurricane season behind it, the resort continues to ready itself for the next major storm.

“We’re always looking for ways to prepare, and that’s our job,” said Communications Manager for the Town of Ocean City Jessica Waters.

In 2013, the resort was one of just a few communities FEMA selected to take part in its national emergency preparedness class, a multi-day training in which city workers used their emergency tools to respond to a simulated hurricane, Waters said.

The city also holds periodic preparedness seminars and Community Emergency Reponse Team trainings.

One tool that proved especially useful during Superstorm Sandy, however, was the city’s GovDelivery system, which e-mails or texts updates to its followers.

“Roads were closed, power was out — whatever the message was, they were able to get it to their e-mail,” Waters said.

Keep in mind that hurricane season 2013 does not officially end until Nov. 30 and storms could still develop.

“It’s too soon to know what the season’s final levels of (hurricane) activity will be,” Feltgen said. “However, the odds that the season will produce the expected numbers of hurricanes and especially major hurricanes are rapidly decreasing.”

Sign up for Ocean City’s GovDelivery alerts at www.oceancitymd.gov by clicking the “City Wide Alerts” tab on the left-hand menu.

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