WASHINGTON — Seven months after hurricane Sandy ravaged the Atlantic coastline from Maryland to Connecticut, U.S. and Canadian climate scientists are predicting another banner season for the giant storms.
That could be bad news for the residents and business owners of the northeastern seaboard, many of whom are still rebuilding their shattered lives after Sandy killed 42 people and, according to insurers, cost about $65 billion US in destroyed homes and infrastructure.
U.S. officials predict hurricanes in the Atlantic region will range from “active” to “extremely active” this season. Above is an image of then-Superstorm Sandy from last year. Photograph by The Associated Press, Postmedia News
The Canadian Hurricane Centre is also warning the Atlantic provinces of major hurricane activity this season, primarily because of warmer ocean waters.
This year’s hurricane season, which begins June 1 and which is expected to last at least six months, will again be above normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane center.
NOAA predicts hurricanes in the Atlantic region will range from “active” to “extremely active.” Scientists said there is a 70 per cent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms, of which seven to 11 could become hurricanes, with winds of 119 kilometres an hour or higher, and three to six major hurricanes (178 km/h or higher).
These numbers are well above the 1981-2010 seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes for the Atlantic.
During the 2012 storm season, the number of named storms in the Atlantic region was higher than average but the intensity was lower. There were 19 named storms of which 10 became hurricanes. Only one — hurricane Michael in September — was classified as major. Sandy was just shy of the “major” category with winds up to 177 km/h.
NOAA says it does not make predictions of whether any of these hurricanes will reach landfall because the path of hurricanes depends on daily weather patterns, which cannot be predicted months or weeks in advance.
Scientists said the same atmospheric conditions are at play that have produced increased Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995. These include a strong West African monsoon, warmer tropical Atlantic and Caribbean waters, lower air pressure and reduced wind shear.
As usual, the storms will incubate just above the equator off the west coast of Africa and travel westward toward the Caribbean before turning north.
NOAA acting administrator Kathryn Sullivan warned that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline.
“Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall,” she said.
Joe Nimmich, associate administrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, warned Americans to prepare themselves for a difficult season.
“Preparedness today can make a big difference down the line, so update your family emergency plan and make sure your emergency kit is stocked,” he said in a statement.
By William Marsden, Postmedia News May 24, 2013