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Florida once again spared hurricane landfall

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Published:   |   Updated: December 30, 2013 at 06:11 AM

TAMPA — The year was a little wetter than normal, and December has been decidedly warmer than usual, but the most out-of-the-ordinary trait of 2013’s weather was once again what didn’t happen. For the eighth year in a row, no hurricane made landfall in Florida.

Other than the state’s current string of good luck when it comes to hurricanes, 2013’s weather was fairly typical for a state known more for its atypical weather.

Rainfall was slightly higher than normal, but nearly equal to last year. Through Dec. 23, Tampa had 51.92 inches of rain, about six inches more than normal. Last year was a little wetter; Tampa recorded nearly 56 inches of rain in 2012.

The record for rain was set in 1959 when just under 77 inches of rain soaked Tampa and the surrounding region.

As for temperatures, only a third of a degree separates the average temperatures of 2013 and 2012, which is less than a degree lower than normal, according to forecasters with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.

“We had no overly significant events that caused a lot of rain to fall on us,’’ said weather service meteorologist Nicole Carlisle, searching for an encompassing phrase to describe 2013. “Nothing too unusual happened.”

No hurricanes came near Florida this year. Hurricanes and tropical storms are a major source of precipitation, and rain spawned by a hurricane that comes even close to Florida can bump year-end rainfall amounts to well above normal.

The eight year hurricane-free string is somewhat against the odds. According to the National Hurricane Center, four out of every 10 hurricanes that have hit the United States since 1851 have landed along Florida’s 1,300 miles of coast.

That’s 114 hurricanes in 162 years, but the last hurricane to hit the Sunshine State was Wilma on Oct. 24, 2005.

A lot of factors figure into whether a hurricane season is active, including El Nino and La Nina. The prevailing theory for the continued lack of hurricanes this year is that weather conditions over the Sahara Desert in North Africa blew sand and dust over the eastern Atlantic Ocean, hindering the formation of tropical cyclones that eventually find their way to the U.S. coastline.

In June, Tropical Storm Andrea swept by West Central Florida, making landfall up near Cedar Key. Along with some wind and storm surge, the storm did dump nearly 4 inches of rain on parts of the region.

Even without hurricane precipitation, rainfall around Tampa this year was enough to keep the aquifer and lake levels near normal. That’s mainly because the summer rainy season lived up to its name.

There were plenty of thunderstorms in August and September, which helped keep steady the level of the aquifer, the underground water source that slakes thirst of most of the area’s residents.

The level of the Floridan Aquifer beneath the region that encompasses Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties was measured at 3.61 feet above sea level last week, well above the 2.81 level last December. But it’s been fairly dry since October, prompting the water management district to declare a water shortage earlier this month, limiting lawn watering and irrigation. It’s not an unusual occurrence this time of year.

Though the summer was wet, it didn’t reach the rainfall levels of 2012, a year which Tropical Storm Debby set a one-day record by dumping more than 7 inches on Tampa International Airport on June 24, breaking the record of 5.29 inches set in 1995. The airport saw seven days with more than 2 inches of rain from June through August of 2012.

On the hot and cold side of things, 2013 felt warmer, particularly recently.

Tampa residents have noticed an unusually warm December in which record high temperatures were recorded in Lakeland, Sarasota and Bradenton in mid December.

The month was pocked with only a couple cold mornings in which lows reached into the 40s and 50s, but mostly December was balmy and short-sleeved.

The average temperature in Tampa for December is 69 degrees, according to the weather service data, and Tampa this year stood at a solid 5 degrees above normal for the month.

Over the year, the average temperature in Tampa was 74.5 degrees, said Carlisle, with the weather service, just a shade below the 74.9 mark in 2012. Last year was the second warmest year since 1990, when the record average high temperature in Tampa was 75.3 degrees.

So, what’s in store for 2014? It’s anybody’s guess, said Carlisle.

“The winter will be close to normal, with slightly below normal precipitation,” she said, but going beyond those three months was pure speculation.

“Probably,” she guessed when pressed, “normal temperatures will continue.”

The age-old prognosticator of yearly weather forecasts, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, says this about the 2014 weather in Tampa:

September and October will be warmer and rainier than normal, “with several hurricane threats in September.”

kmorelli@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7760

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