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Experts miss bull's-eye on hurricane numbers

  • Story Highlights
  • '07 season brought 6 hurricanes; NOAA predicted 7 to 9
  • Only four named storms hit U.S., including one hurricane, Humberto
  • Colorado hurricane forecasters admit they were "not particularly successful"
  • Hurricanes Dean, Felix set record as first Cat 5 storms to hit in same season
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(CNN) -- Hurricane forecasters said their 2007 predictions were slightly off target this season, which ended Friday and produced just one U.S. hurricane and two Category 5 landfalls.

In September, Hurricane Humberto wrecked this home in High Island, Texas.

The season, which spans June through November, failed to match the predictions of U.S. government forecasters, which called for seven to nine hurricanes, including at least three at Category 3 strength.

In reality, only six hurricanes formed, including two of major strength.

Only Hurricane Humberto hit the United States -- a Category 1 storm which blew ashore near Galveston, Texas, in September. The season was starkly different from 2005, when the U.S. was hit with consecutive devastating storms, including Hurricane Katrina, which killed more than 1,200 people.

"The United States was fortunate this year," said Gerry Bell, lead forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Experts had thought cooler temperatures in the Pacific, a phenomenon called La Nina, would boost hurricane activity this year. But La Nina's impact was weak, allowing increased winds over the Caribbean to hamper hurricane formation, according to the NOAA.

However, the season wasn't so kind to residents of Central America, where -- for the first time in recorded history -- two deadly Category 5 hurricanes, Dean and Felix, made landfall in the same season.

The two enormous storms -- with howling winds above 160 mph -- left more than 100 people dead or missing, according to the Pan-American Health Organization. Dean struck the Yucatan Peninsula on August 21, followed by Felix hitting Nicaragua on September 2. Both destroyed thousands of structures and forced tens of thousands to evacuate their homes.

Overall, the season saw 14 named storms, which was within NOAA's prediction of 13 to 16.

At Colorado State University, renowned hurricane scientists led by Bill Gray and Philip Klotzbach did little to live up to their reputations this season. They predicted 17 named storms.

"Our 2007 seasonal hurricane forecast was not particularly successful," the team said in its report this week. "We anticipated an above-average season, and the season had activity at approximately average levels."

This year's storms were extremely short-lived, according to the CSU report. On average, each named storm lasted only 2.4 days -- the shortest average length in 30 years.

Humberto was short-lived. On September 13 it surprised just about everyone by bulking up from a tropical depression to a hurricane in a matter of hours before slamming into Texas as a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds.

At least one death was blamed on Humberto, as the storm flooded Galveston streets and downed power lines, leaving thousands of customers in darkness.

Tropical Storm Gabrielle also hit the United States in September, roaring ashore along east-central North Carolina. Tropical Depression Barry soaked Tampa, Florida, at the beginning of the season on June 2.

Tropical Depression Erin found its way to southeast Texas on August 16.

The season bore little resemblance to historic 2005, which included 26 named storms, surpassing the record of 21 set in 1933. Thirteen of the storms were hurricanes, which broke a record that had stood since 1969.

Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm whose initial readings placed it among the most intense storms since 1900, cut a wide swath of destruction across the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Thousands were displaced to shelters around the country as entire communities and cities were flattened by the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said insurance claims totaled some $23 billion. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Hurricanes and CyclonesU.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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