Northeast Still Faces High Risk of Major Hurricane Hit This Season

September 22, 2010

The Atlantic region can expect one more major hurricane this autumn and the northeast U.S. coast still faces double the average risk of getting hit, Weather Services International (WSI) said Tuesday.

The Massachusetts-based private forecaster predicted the six-month Atlantic-Caribbean storm season that ends Nov. 30 would see a total of six “major” hurricanes with winds of at least 111 miles per hour — one more than it envisaged in its August forecast.

There have already been five major hurricanes this year, including Julia and Karl last week, in what forecasters had warned would be an above-average active season.

After a relatively slow start, the tropical storm season had picked up dramatically in the past few weeks, with five major hurricanes occurring within the last three weeks, a historically unprecedented event, Todd Crawford, WSI’s chief meteorologist, said in a statement with the forecast.

Conditions in the Atlantic meant the northeast U.S. coast remained at twice the average risk of getting hit, WSI said.

“Our models still indicate that there’s an enhanced threat along the northeast … that risk is twice the normal risk,” Crawford told Reuters in a separate interview.

The United States had been spared a significant destructive landfall so far this season.

Most of this year’s hurricanes have moved toward the eastern U.S. coast and then moved northwards, staying off the coast or curving back out to sea.

Crawford said this was the result of an upper-air atmospheric pattern persisting over the Atlantic which had been steering storms in that direction, rather than westward into the Caribbean or towards the oil-producing Gulf of Mexico.

He added: “We’re about 70 percent through the season right now, so we still have a lot of activity left”.

In its final forecast for the year, WSI said there would be 18 named storms this season, with 10 of those strengthening into hurricanes. Those totals were unchanged from August.

With more than two months remaining, the busy 2010 season has already surpassed the yearly average.

There have been 12 named tropical storms, with six strengthening into hurricanes and five of those achieving “major” status of Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale of intensity.

The long-term average is 10 storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Seasonal forecasts cannot predict the impact or likely path of any individual storm but can give energy traders, farmers, insurance companies and risk managers a general idea of what to expect in the months ahead.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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