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Slow hurricane season so far, but new tropical depression looms in the Atlantic

As Typhoon Morakot slammed into Taiwan over the weekend triggering massive mudslides and leaving hundreds missing, Americans along the Gulf Coast may have thought they were getting off easy this storm season. That could change.  

The National Hurricane Center issued a warning this morning that a tropical depression is forming in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa and has a chance of moving west and turning into the U.S.'s first tropical storm of the season, to be named Ana, in the next day or two.  

The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season was never predicted to be a doozy, because of the calming effects of warm El Niño waters, but so far it’s been a total sleeper.   

Typically, the first named storm starts swirling in early July (the Atlantic season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30), but all we've gotten so far are a few false alarms. Forecasters are now saying there's a 70 percent chance of seven to 11 storms, including three to six hurricanes. Two hurricanes could have winds of 111 mph or higher.  

The last major storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Ike, which struck Galveston over Labor Day weekend in 2008 and caused a reported $10.7 billion in insured losses.  

If you’re quaking in your boots, keep in mind that you may have trouble purchasing last-minute insurance: a class-action lawsuit recently filed in Texas claims that hurricane insurers have a habit of dropping customers just as the season kicks off.

Image of Tropical Depression TWO courtesy National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

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