The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1st, and experts say this could be a busier storm year than North Americans have come to expect.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts up to 16 named storms of which four to eight could become hurricanes, and one to four could become major hurricanes. (According to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale, a storm gets a name when it has sustained winds of 68 to 118 km/h, becomes a hurricane when sustained winds reach 119 km/h, and is classified as a major hurricane when sustained winds surpass 178 km/h.)
If NOAA's predictions come to pass, it will be a departure from the past couple of seasons, which have seen below-average activity in the Atlantic basin; 12 named storms were recorded during the 2015 season, while the 2014 season saw only nine. Of course, storm activity isn't necessarily a predictor of storm intensity: the first named stormed of 2014, Arthur, made landfall in Nova Scotia at near Category 1 strength and dumped close to 150 mm of rain on parts of New Brunswick.
According to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, the number of storms reaching Canada each year has been on the increase since 2000, with about one hurricane making landfall every other year and one to two storms of tropical origin moving over land every year. As shown above in our map of hurricane activity over the past 148 years, a few storms have been truly devastating or noteworthy:
- Hurricane Hazel (1954) — The deadliest and costliest hurricane of the 1954 season, Hazel was a rare storm that affected southern Ontario instead of curving northeast with the prevailing winds. Flooding from Hazel's rains killed 81 people and destroyed thousands of homes, prompting an intensive review of the province's disaster preparedness and erosion control strategies.
- Hurricane Juan (2003) — While not the strongest hurricane to make landfall in Canada (that record belongs to Hurricane Ginny in 1963), Juan's track took it directly through the Halifax Regional Municipality, making it the city's most destructive storm in modern history. Eight people died, and more than a decade later, some of the city's trees still bear scars from Juan's onslaught.
- Hurricane Igor (2010) — On its own, Igor might have been a non-story for Newfoundland, but a stationary front over the Maritimes interacted with the storm as it grazed the Avalon Peninsula, causing unprecedented rainfall in parts of the province. Flash flooding killed one person and washed out roads and bridges, cutting off entire communities and in at least one case requiring an entire town to be evacuated by boat.