Two Degree Difference: What to expect this hurricane season

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VERMONT (WFFF) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts an above-normal hurricane season, meaning we can expect more storms this year. 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 calling for 13 to 20 possible named storms, about six to 10 being hurricanes. and three to five being major hurricanes,” said Scott Whittier, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Burlington.

But Whittier says that not all tropical systems make landfall. Additionally, hurricanes that travel into the region are typically tropical storms. “The greatest impacts for us are largely heavy rainfall,” he said.

Still, these storms can be devastating. Heavy rainfall can lead to flooding and the erosion of roads, bridges, and riverbanks, in turn. “This year is the 10th anniversary of Irene in August. And we witnessed that across Vermont, where we saw devastating flooding across the southern two-thirds of the state,” said Whittier.

Robert Faley with the Vermont Agency of Transportation remembers that day. “There were just hundreds of feet of the road just missing, where a stream had come up and just took out the embankment of the pavement. Bridges were collapsed,” said Faley.

Whittier says climate change has impacted the frequency of tropical systems because ocean temperatures are warming up. “Ocean temperatures of 80 degrees or greater are the breeding grounds it’s the energy to fuel tropical systems,” he said. According to Whittier, the region sees one tropical system every 10 to 15 years. 

“Now, I’m not going to put the jinx, because we’re at the 10th anniversary of Irene. But statistics say that we are due. But then, any year, it could happen. But as we go those longer spans between a system, the chances are you’re going to get something sooner rather than later,” said Whittier.

But we have the technology to know days in advance when a tropical storm is coming. In the event of a severe storm or flooding, he says is best to have a plan, obey road signs, and seek higher elevations. 

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