It's time to give El Nino a little credit.

With the Pacific phenomenon muting bad weather over the Atlantic, the hurricane season may get off to a slow start in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico."There's no question we'll see a lingering El Nino," National Weather Service director Jack Kelly said Thursday. "One effect is we could have a slight delay in the start of the hurricane season."

That doesn't mean there won't be any hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30, looks like the norm - nine storms, six hurricanes and two intense ones.

An El Nino-induced break last season allowed only Hurricane Danny to hit the United States for a damage toll of $100 million - only a tiny fraction of the $5 billion average.

But as El Nino wears down, tropical storms should regain their oomph.

"If you live along the coast from Texas to Maine, it's not a question of if, but when," said Jerry Jarrell, the newly installed director of the National Hurricane Center. "The hurricane will come."