Could this be the year New England experiences a hurricane? It’s certainly possible. With a prediction of an above-average number of Atlantic storms in the coming months, one could argue that the odds of one striking coastal Massachusetts, Rhode Island, or Connecticut grow with the increased number of storms.
This week, the National Hurricane Center upped their prediction for the number of hurricanes this season and raised to 60 percent their confidence that an above-average season would occur.
If the season does end up being that active, we will see the greatest number of Atlantic hurricanes in any season since 2010, a busy year. That year there were 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. However, not one of those hurricanes reached the United States mainland, proof that active seasons don’t necessarily mean a lot of hits to coastal communities.
The converse is also true. Back in 1992, there were only seven named storms and three hurricanes, but Andrew, the first one of the season, struck south Florida — the last Category 5 to reach the US. That storm caused loss of life and catastrophic damage.
Are we overdue?
Our reliable hurricane records don’t go back very far in the big picture, only a few hundred years at best. But in that time period, New England went through periods when a hurricane might strike more than once a year, but also gaps of three decades or more without one.
The last hurricane to reach the shores of New England was Bob in 1991, but in 2011, Tropical Storm Irene was very costly in terms of damage and loss of life. Some statistical analysis would suggest we are overdue for a storm, but it could also be we are just going through a normal cycle of low hurricane activity in New England.
Where to look
If a storm is going to reach this part of the country, we know where it’s likely to originate. Depending on where we are during hurricane season, storms will typically form and then track in certain predictable areas. This isn’t to say a storm can’t form or move outside these tracks, but because of the prevailing weather in August and September, storms have some climatological predictability.
For the rest of August and even into the first part of September, storms will often form in the area between Africa and Cuba and further west. The likelihood of one of these storms reaching New England peaks in the first half of September, before lowering and shifting south.
What’s out there right now?
Over the next week, forecasters will be watching an area of thunderstorms in the Atlantic Ocean for potential development.
Some of the computer models are also picking up on the potential for a storm off the US coast next week. The Canadian model, for example, shows a well-developed system east of the Carolinas next Tuesday. This is something forecasters will be watching this weekend and early next week.