Is the Northeast due for another hurricane?

Author:
Publish date:

Although not as vulnerable as their neighbors to the south, New York City, Long Island and New England have been pounded by hurricanes over the last century.

Although not as vulnerable as their neighbors to the south, New York City, Long Island and New England have been pounded by hurricanes over the last century. With the 2006 hurricane season now under way, one question on the minds of many coastal inhabitants of these regions is: When will the Northeast see another major hurricane?

Read the other story in this package: Hurricane Bob: 15 years later

Phil Klotzbach, a research associate with the atmospheric science department at Colorado State University, says there is a 12-percent chance that a Category 3 or higher hurricane could make landfall in Long Island and southern New England this season. The average chance is 4.5 percent. “There is a much higher chance this year, but still it’s just a one in eight chance,” Klotzbach says.

A Category 3 hurricane, as ranked by the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, has winds between 111 and 130 mph. A Category 5 hurricane sees winds reaching more than 155 mph.

Dr. Richard J. Pasch, senior hurricane specialist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says there is “at least a possibility” every year for a major hurricane to make landfall in the Northeast. “I know there are predictions floating around out there saying that the Northeast is due for a major hurricane, but we just haven’t seen any verification of it,” he says.

Fast-moving hurricanes have the best chance of reaching the Northeast, says Pasch. “Water temperatures drop off rapidly north of the Gulf Stream,” he says. “If a hurricane is moving fast enough as to not lose its momentum over the colder water then that’s the real threat.”

The last period of intense hurricane activity in the Northeast was between 1930 and 1960, when hurricanes Carol, Edna and Donna made landfall. The most destructive was the hurricane of 1938 that reportedly killed 700 people and destroyed 63,000 homes on Long Island and throughout New England.