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Hurricane season sets a record in ’08

The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season that ended Nov. 30 set a record for the number of consecutive storms to strike the United States

Despite the absence of any Andrews or Katrinas it ranks as one of the more active seasons in the 64 years since comprehensive record-keeping began.

A total of 16 named storms formed last season, including eight hurricanes, five of which were major (Category 3 or higher).

The 2008 season “continues the current active hurricane era and is the 10th season to produce above-normal activity in the past 14 years,” says Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

Overall, the season tied as the fourth-most active in terms of named storms (16) and major hurricanes (five). It also tied as the fifth-most active in terms of hurricanes (eight) since 1944, which was the first year aircraft missions flew into tropical storms and hurricanes.

For the first time on record, six consecutive tropical cyclones (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) made landfall on the U.S. mainland and a record three major hurricanes (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba. This is also the first Atlantic season to have a major hurricane (Category 3) form in five consecutive months (July: Bertha; August: Gustav; September: Ike; October: Omar; November: Paloma).

Bell attributes the above-normal season to conditions that included an ongoing combination of oceanic and atmospheric conditions that has spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995, lingering La Niña effects, and warmer tropical Atlantic temperatures. On average, the tropical Atlantic was about 1 degree Fahrenheit above normal during the peak of the season.

NOAA will issue its initial 2009 hurricane outlook in May, prior to the official start of the season June 1.

Home the hard way

The crew of the 55-foot William Lee is towed into Delaware Bay Nov. 16 by the Coast Guard cutter Legare. The commercial fishing vessel had become disabled and was adrift 50 miles off New Jersey the day before, with six people aboard.

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Just drop the anchor and pay your respects

A private cemetery in Indonesia goes above and beyond in catering to mourners.

Beyond its “Family Center” — on grounds that includes a chapel, catering hall, restaurant, jogging path, cycling trails, swimming pool, basketball courts and soccer fields — is a 20-acre man-made lake for boating. Several rowboats are available to mourners.

Opened in 2007, San Diego Hills Memorial Park caters to wealthy Indonesians and was inspired by the memorial parks in the U.S. and Europe, according to its founders.

In 2008, the facility added a National Heroes Garden, where honorary burial or memorial is bestowed on leaders in arts and literature, business and industry, education, entertainment, government service, public service, science and sports.

The 1,235-acre park caters to all faiths.

This story originally appeared in the February 2009 issue.