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Atlantic hurricane season ends reluctantly
Record-setting year ends with late-season storm.
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PINELLAS COUNTY - On the last official day of the Atlantic hurricane season, Tuesday, one more storm gathered enough strength to become the 10th named storm of the 2004 season.

The National Weather Service issued an advisory for Tropical Storm Otto, located far to the north and no threat at all to Florida, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

Late-season tropical storms are unusual. Late-season hurricanes are rare.

The last one was recorded in 2001, a year described by officials at the National Weather Service, as "one of the more active ones on record, with 15 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 intense hurricanes."

An intense hurricane is one rated at more than a category 3. A category 3 storm has winds between 111 and 130 mph and storm surge generally 9 to 12 feet above normal, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

According to season wrap-up released by NOAA on Nov. 30, the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season was "one for the record books."

The season totaled nine named storms - three tropical storms and six hurricanes - not counting Otto, which strengthened into a tropical storm after NOAA released its count.

Compared to 2001, the season doesn't seem so bad. But for Floridians, labeled "nature's favorite target" by NOAA officials, it is a season to be remembered for a long time. Four of the six hurricanes, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, and tropical storm Bonnie made landfall in the state during 2004.

"During late summer it seemed that each day's headlines highlighted the impact of the hurricane season," said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA.

During August, eight weather systems reached tropical strength, breaking the records set in 1933 and 1995 of seven.

"What could not be anticipated this season was the high number of U.S. landfalling hurricanes," Johnson said in a release. "On average, the U.S. experiences two to three landfalling hurricanes during above-normal hurricane seasons, well below the eight landfalls recorded this year."

The year 2004 broke another record. This is the first time ever - as far as the records go to 1851 - four hurricanes have made landfall in Florida. Texas is the only other state to come close and that was in 1886.

NOAA reports that property damage estimates for the state will be more than the $34.9-billion - the amount of damages caused by Hurricane Andrew. It also estimated that as many as 9.4 million residents were evacuated from their homes in 2004 because of hurricanes.

Click here for information about a meeting with FEMA on damages from this year's hurricanes.

"The 2004 season was one to tell your grandchildren about," said Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Information Center, in a release. "I believe, and stress at every opportunity, that residents should have a plan, stay informed and act when told to do so by their local officials. We should mark Nov. 30 not as the end of the 2004 hurricane season but the beginning of the six months we have to prepare for next season."

Tropical Storm Otto

It's still unknown whether or not Otto will build enough power to be upgraded to a hurricane. If it does, it will be a rare occurrence.

According to a story published by USA Today on Nov. 5, 2001, Hurricane Michelle was the first major Atlantic Basic hurricane in November since 1999 and the sixth major hurricane recorded in the month since 1900. Of the four hurricanes that made landfall in the United States since 1900 - all hit Florida.

USA Today's record of November hurricanes since 1900 is as follows.

Hurricane Kate in 1985 was the last November hurricane to hit the USA, and also one of November's six major hurricanes. Kate was a Category 3 hurricane on Nov. 20 and 21 in the Gulf of Mexico, but weakened to a Category 1 storm before hitting the Florida Panhandle where it was blamed for five deaths.

The "Yankee hurricane" of 1935 formed over the Atlantic Ocean and moved to the southwest to hit the Miami area with 75 mph winds on Nov. 4. It moved along the Keys and then north into the Gulf of Mexico where it looped back around toward the east, but died before hitting Florida again. To many people in Florida any visitor from the north is a "Yankee," thus the "Yankee hurricane."

Storm number 2 of 1925. Only two tropical storms formed in 1925 with the first coming ashore near Brownsville, Texas, as a tropical storm in September. On Nov. 30, 1925 the year's second tropical storm strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane shortly before coming ashore south of Tampa Bay, Fla. After weakening back into a tropical storm, it crossed Florida to strengthen into a hurricane, but weakened into a tropical storm before hitting the North Carolina Outer Banks on Dec. 2. It was blamed for about 50 deaths, mostly on ships at sea.

Storm number 14 of 1916. Unlike 1925, 1916 was a busy year with 14 tropical storms on the record and all but three of them becoming hurricanes. Storm 14 formed in the western Caribbean on Nov. 11, but remained a tropical storm until Nov. 15 when it was off the western tip of Cuba where it became a category 1 hurricane that moved to the northeast along the Florida Keys with 75 mph winds and then into the Bahamas where it died.

USA Today's record of November hurricanes since 1900 before Michelle is as follows.

Hurricane Lenny of 1999. It grew to be a 150 mph hurricane, just 6 mph shy of Category 5 status, tying Hurricane number 6 in 1912 as the strongest hurricane so late in the season. The 1912 November hurricane remained this strong longer than Lenny, however.

Hurricane Greta in 1956 didn't become a hurricane until after passing over islands around the Caribbean and stayed over the open Atlantic when it was a hurricane.

Hurricane number 10 in 1932 crossed Cuba and the Bahamas as a Category 4 storm. This storm killed between 2,500 and 3,107 people.

Hurricane number 6 in 1912 was a Category 3 and 4 storm in the central Caribbean Sea and hit Jamaica as a Category 4 storm, weakened to a Category 2 before hitting the Cayman Islands and then a Category 1 before crossing Cuba and the Bahamas. About 200 deaths were reported in Jamaica.
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