Hurricane Threat 3rd Year in a Row?

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By Quincy Vagell on April 29, 2013, 4:15pm Last modified: May 1, 2013, 2:35pm

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Tracks of all landfalling New England hurricanes, between 1938 and 1991, also including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, which did not make landfall as official hurricanes.

"Superstorm" Sandy plagued much of the East Coast six months ago and with the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season just about one month away, it's time to look ahead and see what might be in store for this year's hurricane season.

While Connecticut has been severely impacted by tropical systems in back to back years, with Irene (2011) and Sandy (2012), first consider that neither storm made landfall in New England as a hurricane. One has to go back to 1991 with Hurricane Bob since the region had its last landfalling hurricane and 1985 with Hurricane Gloria was the last direct landfall in Connecticut with a hurricane.
It can be argued that Connecticut is actually overdue for a direct hurricane landfall. 
Hurricane Landfalls...1938, 1944, 1954, 1960, 1985...?
It has been 28 years since a hurricane has made a direct landfall in Connecticut. 

With that out of the way, another point to make is that one cannot simply "blame" global warming on these recent storms. The 1950's included several tropical systems impacting New England over a relatively short period of time. From 1952 to 1955, two hurricanes, two tropical storms and one tropical depression all made landfall in New England. 
In 1954, two hurricanes made landfall in New England within the span of 12 days. Hurricane Carol made landfall on August 31st near Old Saybrook, Conn. On September 11th, Hurricane Edna made landfall over Cape Cod, as it just narrowly missed making an official landfall in Connecticut.
In 1955, two tropical systems separated by only six days brought historic flooding. On August 12th, Hurricane Connie made landfall over the Virginia shoreline and the storm continued northward into the mid-Atlantic region. Five days later, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina and also moved northward before dissipating. The two systems combined to bring extreme rainfall amounts and historic flooding to much of Connecticut.

Are we in a pattern similar to the mid-1950's?
This very well could be the case. Weather often repeats itself in patterns and perhaps we are in a run right now that could result in more tropical systems along the Northeast coast.
It is interesting to note April has been unusually dry in Connecticut so far this year. April of 1985 was the driest April on record at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford, Conn. It was on September 27th of that year that Hurricane Gloria made landfall only a few miles from Stratford, in nearby Bridgeport. and The month of April 1985 was the 6th driest April on record at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks. 
April 2013 is on track to be the 3rd driest April on record for Stratford. A dry April does not necessarily correlate to an active hurricane season, let alone a hurricane landfall. However, it was in 1999 that Windsor Locks recorded its driest April on record and later that September Tropical Storm Floyd brought major flooding to parts of Connecticut.

Warm ocean waters fuel tropical systems, especially hurricanes.
Sea-surface temperatures over much of the Atlantic, including the Gulf Stream and mid-Atlantic coast are running above average. When taking a look at a composite of several landfalling New England hurricane tracks, it can be inferred that favorable track areas for New England hurricanes have above average sea-surface temperatures. While this may not imply that a hurricane will strike the Northeast, it does mean that the potential fuel/heat source is certainly there, if a storm were to move up the East Coast.
Note the box between 22°-27°N and 71°-76°W...every landfalling New England hurricane between 1938 and 1991 has crossed that zone.
Click images to expand:

Although tropical activity in the Northeast has been seemingly active over the past two years, the period between 1952 and 1955 was actually much more active. Several tropical systems either made a direct landfall in the Northeast or came close enough to significantly impact the area.
The last official hurricane to make landfall in Connecticut was Gloria in 1985. It's been 28 years since an official hurricane made a direct hit on the state. Hurricane Bob came close in 1991, Irene made landfall as a tropical storm in 2011 and Sandy was a hybrid system that made landfall to our south, in New Jersey.
Ocean temperatures are running above average over much of the Atlantic. If any systems develop along the East Coast and threaten to move northward, there appears as if there will be plenty of warm ocean waters to fuel such storms, especially across the Gulf Stream. It does not mean a Northeast landfall is more likely, but it does mean that if a storm moves towards our area, it will have more of a potential to maintain its strength.
Some years that had a dry April resulted in Northeast tropical activity. April 1985 was a very dry month and that was the year that the last hurricane made a direct landfall in Connecticut. April 1999 was also relatively dry, but that didn't stop a tropical system from bringing excessive rain to Connecticut in September. 

The Northeast coast is not immune from tropical systems. The past two years have proven that fact. Residents in this part of the country and especially the shoreline should always be prepared for the worst. This year, all of us will hope for the best.

For more information, check out these articles:

Direct Hurricane Hits on Connecticut

Other Hurricanes and Near-Misses

Courtesy to UNISYS for tropical system track information.

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Quincy Vagell

Town: Marlborough, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

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