NOAA 2000-083
Contact: Ron Trumbla


MIAMI – The 2000 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended today, marking the third consecutive year of above-average activity. Though the United States escaped a direct hit from a hurricane this year, forecasters said the threat was there. For the entire season, 14 named storms churned in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea -- eight became hurricanes, and three reached major hurricane strength.

"Just as NOAA's hurricane forecasters predicted, there were more storms than normal for the third consecutive year. But this active season may have escaped notice because the U.S. mainland was spared a landfall storm of hurricane strength for the first time since 1994," said NOAA Administrator D. James Baker. "Researchers feel we have now entered a cycle of above-average storm activity unseen since the 1950s and 1960s."

Baker said the increased activity was likely an indication that global climate variations on decadal time scales are again favoring more active Atlantic hurricane seasons. He said it is much too early for 2001 predictions, but that NOAA researchers are studying the decadal cycles and how storm paths this year may have been affected by a Bermuda high pressure system made weak without the influence of El Niño or La Niña.

Retired Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the National Weather Service said, "This year's level of activity carries a message for people living in areas at risk. Even when we are not directly threatened, there is always reason to be prepared. It's not a question of ‘if' a major hurricane will strike, but ‘when.'"

Max Mayfield, director of the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center in Miami said, "The United States was spared the direct impact of a hurricane, but the risks were still there as they are during every hurricane season."

As examples, Mayfield cited three of this season's Atlantic storms. "In September, Hurricane Gordon killed 23 in Guatemala, and Hurricane Keith struck Belize and caused 19 deaths and about $200 million in damages in the region." Mayfield also said a tropical weather system does not have to reach the level of a hurricane to wreak havoc. "Even before it became Tropical Storm Leslie, that system dropped 18 inches of rain in south Florida, and caused massive urban flooding and $700 million in total damage."

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, although most tropical storms and hurricanes typically occur during the August-October peak period. This season, all of the tropical storms and hurricanes occurred between August and October. The United States recorded only modest tropical storm-related damage and flooding in 2000 because none of the hurricanes made landfall.

Kelly added, "Nature gave us a reprieve this season from land-falling hurricanes, but we may not be as fortunate next year. Residents living in areas prone to tropical storms must create a safety plan, get to know local evacuation procedures and keep a NOAA Weather Radio handy."

Note to Editors: A monthly summary of ALL storms is found on the NOAA National Hurricane Center Web site at: under "Current Season Summaries and Reports."