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Hurricane season along the East Coast, Gulf of Mexico set to end with a whimper

A surfer carries his surfboard as he walks along La Pared Beach in Luquillo, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Hurricane Gonzalo moved away from the area, but churned up heavy surf across much of the Caribbean, Tuesday. Forecasters said it could pick up strength and become a major storm as it approaches Bermuda. (AP Photo/Ricardo Arduengo)
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American coastal communities appear to have largely dodged a bullet this hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the Atlantic hurricane season which ends November 30 "will be remembered as a relatively quiet season" with only two major hurricanes (winds above 111 miles per hour) and six hurricanes (with winds above 74 mph). The Atlantic basin covers the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

"Fortunately, much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year with only one landfalling hurricane along the East Coast. Nevertheless, we know that's not always going to be the case," said Louis Uccellini, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

Hurricane Arthur made landfall in North Carolina on July 3.

"A combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season, including very strong vertical wind shear" - which rips hurricanes apart - "combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic," which makes it difficult for thunderstorms to form, said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Still, it was slightly busier than 2013 which had the fewest number of hurricanes in the Atlantic since 1982. The 2013 season ranked as the 10th least-active Atlantic hurricane season since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of named storms and hurricanes - with only two hurricanes and no major hurricanes.

This was the first time since the 1990s that there had two quiet seasons in row.

It was a different story in the eastern Pacific, which is the area closest to California. There, the 2014 hurricane season was much busier. There were 20 named storms which made this season the busiest since 1992. Of those, 14 became hurricanes and eight were major hurricanes.

Two hurricanes (Odile and Simon) brought much-needed moisture to the parts of the southwestern U.S., with very heavy rain from Simon causing flooding in some areas.

"Conditions that favored an above-normal eastern Pacific hurricane season included weak vertical wind shear, exceptionally moist and unstable air, and a strong ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere that helped to keep storms in a conducive environment for extended periods," Bell said.

In the central Pacific hurricane basin, which covers parts Hawaii, there were five named storms in 2014 with the most notable being Hurricane Iselle. It hit the Big Island of Hawaii in early August as a tropical storm, and was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the main Hawaiian Islands since Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Hurricane Ana was also notable in that it was the longest-lived tropical cyclone (13 days) of the season and the longest-lived central Pacific storm of the satellite era.

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com