MIAMI (CBS4) – On this final day of the 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season, South Floridians can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Although it was a relatively quiet season for us, that was not the case elsewhere.

This year’s hurricane season was one of the busiest on record with a total of 19 named storms which tied 2010 with 1887 and 1995 for the third busiest season on record.

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Of this year’s 19 named storms 12 became hurricanes which tied with 1969 for the second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher. These totals are not too far off from what the meteorologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted.

NOAA’s forecast was that we would see 14 to 23 named storms, 8 to 14 hurricanes and 3 to 7 major hurricanes. In an average Atlantic Hurricane season we expect about 11 named storms of which six will become hurricanes and two of those will become major hurricanes.

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CBS4 Meteorologist Lissette Gonzalez said the combination of record warm Atlantic waters, favorable winds off Africa and weak wind shear due to a strong La Nina pattern helped fuel developing storms. But short-term weather patterns dictate the path the storms take and in many cases this season, the jet stream helped to act as a barrier and steer many of the storms away from South Florida and the United States. Also, because many of the storms formed in the far Eastern Atlantic, they re-curved back to out to sea without posing a threat to land.

“As NOAA forecasters predicted, the Atlantic hurricane season was one of the most active on record, though fortunately most storms avoided the U.S. For that reason, you could say the season was a gentle giant,” said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.

South Florida dodged many storms, but other parts of the Atlantic Basin were not as fortunate. Hurricane Tomas brought torrential downpours to the vulnerable nation of Haiti and several storms, including Alex, slammed eastern Mexico and Central America with heavy rain, mudslides and deadly flooding.

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In contrast, NOAA says the eastern North Pacific season had the fewest storms on record since the satellite era began. While La Nina helped to enhance the Atlantic Hurricane Season, it also suppressed storms from forming and strengthening in the eastern North Pacific; seven named storms, three hurricanes, two of those became major hurricanes. An average eastern North Pacific season produces around 15 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

Lissette Gonzalez