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From Rick Schwartz, author of the book Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States
For Release: Immediately
Alexandria, Va. 5/10/2013
2013 Hurricane Season Is Likely To Be Active Along The East Coast
Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Irene in 2011 may well signal the start of an active
hurricane cycle for the East Coast. If so, expect multiple Category 2 or stronger
hurricane landfalls along the Eastern Seaboard during the next few years.
East Coast hurricane history is tied to decades-long cycles with many notable
storms followed by generally longer periods of less frequent severe activity. Less
active cycles last about 30 to 50 years and active cycles are generally 25 to 30
years. The first years of active cycles often surprise residents with multiple
Cycles seem to start and end abruptly. Within the cycles are series or clusters of
active years, typically three to six, with a quiet year often embedded in the longer
series. They occur during active and less active cycles, but they are much more
frequent during the former.
Hurricanes Irene and Sandy made landfall in New Jersey as Category 1 storms,
the lowest rung on the five tier Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. Coastal sections
of the Northeast could see something with considerably stronger winds. 2013
marks the 75th anniversary of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, a
Category 3 hurricane with 120 mph winds that struck Long Island, killing 600
residents of New England.
Frequently, two consecutive years of East Coast landfalls signal the start of a
series. Since the Weather Service began tracking hurricanes in 1871, every
series has included multiple Category 2 or stronger hurricanes reaching the East
Strong East Coast hurricanes should be expected this summer.
Florida hasn’t had a hurricane landfall along the Atlantic coast since 2005, a
remarkable lull considering the more than 100 named North Atlantic tropical
cyclones since then. The last Category 2 hurricane to make landfall on the Eastern
Seaboard north of Florida was Isabel in 2003. Fran in 1996 was the last Category 3
hurricane to strike north of Florida, and there have been more than 200 named
storms since Fran.
Interior sections of the Mid-Atlantic region are due for a “Big One” hurricane
Hazel in October 1954 was the last tropical cyclone to bring actual hurricane force
winds of 74 mph and higher to widespread interior sections of the region. The
Category 4 storm made landfall in North Carolina with 140 mph sustained winds
before tracking north through Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Its
unrelenting fury made for lifetime memories.
Hazel set many wind records, including a 78 mph sustained wind in Washington, D.
C., and a peak gust of 98 mph. Many sections east of Hazel's track, from North
Carolina to New York, experienced hours of hurricane force gusts. Often when a
hurricane packing sustained winds of more than 100 mph makes landfall and is
traveling faster than 30 mph, it retains hurricane force gusts for hundreds of
miles despite an over land track. Hazel raced through the Mid-Atlantic at 50 mph.
Inland hurricanes like Hazel have occurred regularly in the Mid-Atlantic region
during the past 400 years. At least eight have tracked through Maryland and
Virginia, with no interval longer than 58 years. The 2013 hurricane season, June 1
to November 30, is the longest period between Hazel-type events in those states
during at least the past 400 years. Each occurred in September or October.
Hurricanes Irene and Sandy were just the warm-ups for the East Coast if a
prolonged active period has begun, which seems likely. Many years of little
hurricane activity seem to lure residents into complacency. 2013 is not a year for
Notable upcoming events:
The National Weather Service has chosen May 26 to June 1 as “Hurricane
The 75th anniversary of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938 is September
The 10th anniversary of Hurricane Isabel is September 18.
The following are questions frequently asked Richard Schwartz, author of
Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States:
Q. What are the region's greatest hurricane threats?
The Mid-Atlantic is due for a severe, extensive, interior windstorm. The last was
Hurricane Hazel in 1954. It brought hurricane-force gusts to nearly the entire eastern
third of the region. Inland hurricanes occur, on average, about every 50 years. Never
before have so many people and so much property been at risk.
Q. Why did you write the book?
I have lived in the Mid-Atlantic region all my life. I became interested in hurricanes
when I was a teenager. From that time until my book came out, there was no
resource that provided a regional hurricane history. In fact, it seemed a lost history.
I discovered an extensive, fascinating and compelling past. Residents need to be
aware of it as the type of hurricane events that have visited in the past will return.
Hurricane history is very repetitious.
My research included records dating back to the 1600s. Voices from the past
seemed to whisper, "Don't let our observations be lost. Future generations need to
know what we've seen and experienced."
It's crucial to learn from the past to better prepare for the future. Unfortunately, it
seems as if little has been done to prepare for the Big Ones and apathy, particularly
away from the coast, continues to grow. My book offers vital information; reasons to
be concerned and prepare.
Q. What are your credentials?
I have tracked Atlantic hurricanes during the past 40 years. I spent seven years
researching and writing the book. This included more than 10,000 miles of driving,
about a hundred interviews and viewing countless rolls of microfilm. I have also read
the hurricane history works of many other authors.
Perhaps, I was meant to write a book like this. My birthday is on June 1, which is the
official start of hurricane season.
Q. How will readers benefit?
The book offers an incisive examination of the types and characteristics of the
region's hurricanes, as well as the risks faced by the Middle Atlantic states. It
provides a basis for comparison, a basis for preparation and a way to put future
storms in context. At the same time it is an interesting read, an extensive collection of
short storm stories and hurricane damage photographs found nowhere else.
Q. What is the most destructive hurricane to visit the region?
There is no one hurricane that offers a complete package of utter devastation. The
'worst' depends on the type of event. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 is the costliest,
perhaps $50 billion in property losses. For high winds, Hurricane Hazel in 1954 is the
most destructive during the past century. Hurricane Agnes, in 1972, was the most
destructive regional rainstorm. Hurricane Camille, Virginia's deadliest natural
disaster, ranks among the most extreme localized rain events.
Q. Could a Hurricane Katrina strike the Middle Atlantic states?
Yes! The two major coastal urban areas, Hampton Roads, Va., and New York City
metropolitan area have had close encounters with hurricanes.
Category 2 hurricanes nearly struck the Hampton Roads area in 1933 and 1936.
Category 3--Katrina strength hurricanes have tracked fewer than 50 miles offshore.
The low-lying area, which is located in southeastern Virginia, has a population of
more than a million. A direct hit from a Category 3 or stronger hurricane could
inundate the homes of more than a half million residents.
Category 1 hurricanes have tracked over or within a few miles of New York City in
1821, 1893 and 1976. A Category 3 hurricane came ashore on Long Island, within
60 miles of New York City, in 1938. That disaster killed 600 people in New England.
While an extremely rare event--it has not happened in the past 400 years--a
Category 3 or stronger hurricane might follow a path closer to the New York
metropolitan area than the storm of 1938.
|Interview With The Author