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19 hurricanes in third-most active Atlantic season
by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Nov 28, 2011

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season produced a total of 19 storms, including Hurricane Irene that lashed the US East Coast in August in the third-most active year on record, US observers said Monday.

The active storm season, which ends Wednesday, tied 2010, 1995 and 1887 as the most active since records began in 1851 -- and well above the average of 11, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

"This season is a reminder that storms can hit any part of our coast and that all regions need to be prepared each and every season," NOAA National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said in a statement.

But this season continued a trend of a lull in the number of major hurricanes -- with only three such storms, slightly above the average of two. There was a total of seven hurricanes, including the major storms, just above the average of six.

It has been six years since a major hurricane, with top winds of 111 miles (178 kilometers) per hour or more made landfall in the United States. The last one to do so was Wilma, in 2005.

Irene was the first hurricane to strike the United States since Ike hit southeast Texas in 2008. It was also the most significant tropical cyclone to strike the northeastern United States since Hurricane Bob in 1991, according to NOAA.

"Irene broke the 'hurricane amnesia' that can develop when so much time lapses between landfalling storms," Hayes said.

The hurricane caused an estimated $7.2 billion in damage in the United States from North Carolina to New England, as well as in the US territory of Puerto Rico, according to reinsurance broker AON Benfield. It was this year's deadliest storm, with 55 people killed in the Caribbean and the United States.

In Mexico, rains associated with the hurricane season left 40 people dead and 400,000 homeless, according to official records released in October. But that was still a decline compared to 2010, when 125 people lost their lives and nearly a million lost their homes.

"Although the 2011 hurricane season has ended, our need to prepare for disasters hasn't," said Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate. "Being prepared for all kinds of hazards, from hurricanes to blizzards to tornadoes, is a year-round activity."

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