VERMONT (WFFF) – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts an above-normal hurricane season, which means we can expect more storms this year. The Atlantic hurricane season falls between June and November, with its peak in New England between August and early October.
“The forecast for this season is 13 to 20 possible named storms, about six to 10 being hurricanes. and three to five being major hurricanes,” said Scott Whittier, Burlington National Weather Service Alert Coordination Meteorologist.
But Whittier says not all tropical systems reach the continent. Furthermore, the hurricanes that arrive in the region are typically tropical storms. “The biggest impacts for us are largely heavy rains,” he said.
Still, these storms can be devastating. Heavy rains can lead to flooding and erosion of roads, bridges and riverbanks in turn. “This year is Irene’s 10th birthday in August. And we’ve witnessed that in Vermont, where we’ve seen devastating flooding in the southern two-thirds of the state,” Whittier said.
Robert Faley of the Vermont Transportation Agency remembers that day. “There were only hundreds of meters of road left, where a creek rose up and ended up with the asphalt embankment. Bridges were destroyed,” said Faley.
Whittier says climate change has affected the frequency of tropical systems because ocean temperatures are warming. “Ocean temperatures of 80 degrees or more are the breeding grounds for energy to power tropical systems,” he said. According to Whittier, the region sees a tropical system every 10 to 15 years.
“Now, I won’t cast the bad luck, because it’s Irene’s 10th birthday. But the statistics say we owe it. But then, any year, it could happen. But as we go through these longer intervals between a system, chances are you’ll get something sooner or later,” Whittier said.
But we have the technology to know days in advance when a tropical storm is coming. In the event of a heavy storm or flood, he says it’s best to have a plan, obey the signposts, and look for higher elevations.