MIAMI — The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season that spawned the destruction of Sandy and Isaac has come to an end as one for the record books.
There were 19 named storms in what meteorologists consider an above-average year that tied as being the third most-active season since 1851. The season runs from June 1st to November 30th, although tropical storms can and do sometimes develop outside those dates.
Even without a so-called major storm reaching the U.S., there was plenty of damage. A storm is classed as major once it becomes a Category 3 hurricane, with top sustained winds of 111 miles per hour (178 kph) and more.
Seven years have now gone by without a major hurricane making U.S. landfall, the longest stretch on record.
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, said a persistent jet stream pattern has steered storms away from the U.S. in recent years.
It wasn’t enough to keep away Sandy, which morphed from hurricane to superstorm as it slammed into the New Jersey coast in October and wreaked havoc across the Northeast. It left millions without power and killed at least 125 people in the U.S. and 71 in the Caribbean.
The storm is estimated to have caused about $62 billion in damage and other losses in the U.S., most of it in New York and New Jersey. It is the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
Hurricane Isaac struck southern Louisiana in August on the eve of Hurricane Katrina’s seventh anniversary, swamping the Gulf Coast after trudging through the Gulf of Mexico and delaying the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.
Sandy combined with an early winter storm and blast of artic air from the north to create a deadly brew meteorologists coined “Frankenstorm” and struck two days before Halloween.
A somewhat similar phenomenon occurred with the so-called Perfect Storm off the coast of New England in 1991, but that storm did not strike a major metropolitan region like Sandy.
“This was certainly one for the record books,” Feltgen said.
A typical hurricane season has 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes and three major storms. This year 10 storms became hurricanes and just one a Category 3 or higher, though it remained in the Atlantic Ocean.
Four storms in all made landfall, including Tropical Storm Beryl, which struck Jacksonville, Fla., with 75 miles per hour winds, the strongest tropical storm to strike the U.S. before hurricane season officially starts.
Whether next year’s hurricane season will bring another calamitous strike is still too early to predict.
“You can’t use this year as a gauge for next year,” Feltgen said. “You have to go into each season thinking, ‘This is the year I’m going to be hit and I have to be ready for it.”