A Below Normal Hurricane Season, But Don’t Forget About Bob

Hurricane season 2014, a dud?  Not so fast.  Perhaps you’ve seen the  hurricane forecast released by NOAA two weeks ago suggesting a slightly below normal 2014 Atlantic season. We can thank our friend in the Eastern Pacific, a developing El Nino for that projection.  NOAA projects 8 to 13 named storms. 3 to 6 of which are expected to become hurricanes. 1 to 2 of which are expected to become Major Hurricanes.

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So what is El Nino?  It’s simply just an abnormal warming of the Eastern Pacific Ocean.  That ocean temperature change, often has a dramatic effect on weather patterns in the North America and Tropical Atlantic. The oncoming El Nino makes for a more active and stronger southern jet which provides an environment not conducive for tropical cyclone development in the deep tropics.
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While this is all accurate, it’s important not to downplay the 2014 hurricane season based on numbers.  True, it will most likely be a below average season in the Atlantic, but it only takes one.  In fact, the last hurricane to make landfall in New England was hurricane Bob on August 19th 1991, and it hit during a moderate El Nino season. 

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Visible Satellite of Hurricane Bob

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In Maine, the damage from Bob was light compared to our neighbors in Southern New England, but widespread power outages were reported. Many trees and wires were knocked down. Most of the damage occurred along the coastal areas, but power outages spread as far as western Maine. Southern Maine and New Hampshire recorded the highest rainfall amounts from the storm.

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As reported from Maine Hurricane History

In York County, 8600 people were evacuated from the coast and placed into emergency shelters. The Governor ordered evacuations of residents within ¼ mile of the shore as Coastal flooding took its toll on the area. Two Million dollars in damage occurred in York and Cumberland Counties. In Gorham, 5 bridges were washed out by rising waters of local rivers and streams.

In Topsham, a power surge caused by the hurricane caused the former Mikes Ice Cream store to catch fire. The building was destroyed by the fire. All across the area, corn fields were flattened and the apple crop was damaged. Debris clearance took up to a week in most areas.

In Androscoggin County, a total of 6.3 inches of rain fell in Lewiston. Flooding damaged many areas including roads in Lisbon and Durham. The Androscoggin River also rose by 4 feet to 8′ 4″ from 4′ 6″. Flooding destroyed small bridges, and washed out several roads throughout the county.

High winds in Androscoggin County caused extensive damage as the storm peaked around 7:30 PM. In Durham, winds of 68 mph were reported. In Poland, the highway, fire, and sheriffs departments were kept busy into the night. Several calls for branches on wires and trees downed on roads came into the dispatch center. In Minot, the highway department had to clear in excess of 30 trees from the roads. Lisbon and Mechanic Falls had the worst damage totaling $332,000 of personal property damage and $44,000 of public damage. Total damage in Androscoggin County was estimated at $1 Million Dollars.

Damages from Bob were estimated at $1.5 Billion Dollars, making Bob the 15th most costliest hurricane in U.S. History. Total damages in Maine stood at $212 Million. A total of 18 people died in the storm. Six in Connecticut, 3 in both New York and Maine, 2 in both Nova Scotia and New Hampshire, and 1 in both North and South Carolina.

Three people in Maine died due to the storm. In Cumberland, a 60 year old man was swept away by flood waters while evacuating his disabled truck. Another 34 year old man from South Portland was electrocuted while plugging in a water pump in a flooded basement. Out to sea, another man was found dead on a life raft. Two people were injured when their car went into a brook in Durham. Though there were a lot of close calls, no other injuries were reported.

COULD WE BE LOOKING AT ANOTHER EAST COAST THREAT IN 2014?

Based on the current forecast, we’ll need to keep an eye on tropical development outside of the normal suspect areas like the deep tropics (Cape Verde Islands, The Dominican, Western Caribbean, and Yucatan). Instead we’ll most likely be watching for storms to form and track closer to US shores. The Gulf of Mexico and East Coast of the United States will be areas to watch, especially in August and September.  WeatherBell Analytics outlines this threat in their 2014 hurricane forecast.

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PROBABILITY OF OF HURRICANES BROKEN DOWN BY CATEGORY

The National Hurricane Center estimates “return periods” for the various categories of hurricanes for locations along the East Coast and Gulf Coast.  In this determination, the likelihood of the center of a hurricane passing within 75 miles of location is estimated. However, because Northern New England does not have many strong hurricanes, it is difficult to determine the frequency of the stronger hurricanes.

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HERE’S THE LIST OF THE FIRST 14  NAMES FOR THE UPCOMING 2014 TROPICAL ATLANTIC  SEASON

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To learn more about hurricanes and how to prepare for one, check the National Hurricane Center’s suggestions here.


		
Charlie Lopresti

About Charlie Lopresti

Charlie makes up the "Weather Part" of CBS News 13s evening edition. A native New Englander, he grew up enjoying the area's exciting and sometimes wild weather.