East Coast Threat? The Straight Facts
By Quincy Vagell on August 20, 2012, 10:05pm
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With system "94L" likely to become a Tropical Storm, there has been a lot of talk about it approaching the East Coast.
Over the past 30 years, (in my opinion) there have only been four significant tropical systems to make a direct impact on New England:
1. Hurricane Gloria - 1985
2. Hurricane Bob - 1991
3. Tropical Storm Floyd - 1999
4. Tropical Storm Irene - 2011
It's important to know the facts before hyping up a potential hurricane.
First, it is very difficult for a tropical system to directly hit New England.
Everything has to go right. As these systems move northward, they increase in forward speed and then to curve towards the north-northeast and often to the northeast. As this happens, there is only a very narrow "window" for that storm to hit the coast.
Gloria was one of the rare storms to have a "perfect" trajectory. it went right through Long Island and into Connecticut. Irene ALMOST did that, but it tracked just a little bit too far west. As a result, it weakened before making it here.
Bob was similar, although it was a bit further east. It only grazed Connecticut.
Floyd was very similar to Irene. That storm hugged the coast and also weakened to a modest Tropical Storm by the time it hit Connecticut.
Historically, many storms have been forecast to hit New England.
Consider a five-day forecast. The average error by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) with a 120-hour forecast is about 236 miles.
The distance horizontally from New York City to outer Cape Cod is ~160 miles. A storm that is forecast to hit New York City five days out could very easily pass 50 to 100 miles east of Cape Cod, and still be an "average" forecast.
The distance horizontally from Cape Hatteras to outer Cape Cod is ~250 miles.
Do the math.
The reason why it's so hard to get a New England tropical system is not just about distance. As storms turn towards the north, just a slight jog east can be the difference between a direct hit and a near-miss.
In this article, I will examine what I believe to be the last four major tropical systems to directly hit New England. I will compare their track, the atmospheric set-up and more to 94L.