Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Great New England Hurricane of 2006,7,8...?

I've lived in Southern New England for most of my life and the Great Hurricane of 1938 is a historical fact not to be taken lightly, but it seems that ever couple of years someone says this is the year it's going to happen again.

Hurricane (Source: NASA)

On the heals of the year of Katrina, AccuWeather.com is taking their turn at predicting the next great New England hurricane and saying it could become the greatest natural disaster in U.S History. From the linked AccuWeather:

"The Northeast is staring down the barrel of a gun," said Joe Bastardi, Chief Forecaster of the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center. "The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane, and with the weather patterns and hydrology we're seeing in the oceans, the likelihood of a major hurricane making landfall in the Northeast is not a question of if but when."

AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center research meteorologists have identified weather cycles that indicate which U.S. coastal areas are most susceptible to landfalls. "If you examine past weather cycles that have occurred in the Atlantic, you will see patterns of storms," added Ken Reeves, Expert Senior Meteorologist and Director of Forecasting Operations at AccuWeather.com. "Determination of where we are in the cycle has enabled AccuWeather.com meteorologists to accurately predict hurricane activity in Florida in 2004 and along the Gulf Coast last year. There are indications that the Northeast will experience a hurricane larger and more powerful than anything that region has seen in a long time."

Watching the first video report link at the bottom of the AccuWeather page seems to sensationalize this story. The Meteorologist reports that the hurricane barrier in Providence will save the city but backup any storm surge in the bay compounding problems for communities south. I find it amazingly stupid that he missed the Seekonk River only a few hundred yards east of the Hurricane barrier. That is where a large portion of the blocked storm surge would be going.

He also claims that in a replay of the 1938 hurricane low laying Long Island NY would be decimated and Newport RI would be spared similar destruction because of the elevation. Granted the Newport Mansions are built on ocean front granite bluffs south of the city, but the city itself is built around a natural harbor and could receive substantial flooding.

Additionally a graphic shown in the video implies flooding miles inland. Hardly, a major portion of the land around Narragansett Bay rises up to between 50 and 100 feet in less than a quarter mile from shore. The major problems would occur in the small harbor towns and in southern RI along Block Island sound where the topography is predominantly sandy beaches, tidal ponds and salt marshes, same areas decimated in 1938.

A lot of over development has occurred along the coast and a major hurricane would be costly, but Providence (formally known as the city of seven hills in colonal times) is not New Orleans and Rhode Island is not a flat coastal plain like Florida. Informing people they need to be prepared for the possibility of a big weather event, especially a hurricane, is important. I just don't like it when inaccurate information is added to sell a prediction.

AccuWeather needs to add topography to their list of Meteorologist study topics.

1 comment:

Nick said...

The general population has to be prepared and educated about the dynamics of what real preparation is and how one can do it. On Long Island the population is so high that the only way to really prepare is to do small things before a storm is even born. When water goes on sale in summer, or cans of food, etc.. the smart thing to do would to buy extras and just keep some in the basement as an emergency resource. The reasonis because as soon as a warning is in place the stores will be blown out and gas will be empty.