Hurricane forecasters on Canada's East Coast warned people Thursday to prepare for an active storm season with a reminder that it only takes one hurricane to make land in the right place to cause widespread damage.
With the 2010 season looming, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States said eight to 14 hurricanes would form, with three to seven of them becoming major storms that reach Category 3 or higher - meaning they bring sustained winds of at least 176 km/h.
At the Canadian Hurricane Centre in the Halifax area, Chris Fogarty said on average, one or two storms directly affect Canadian territory every year, with another two or three threatening offshore waters.
With storm activity in the Atlantic basin predicted to be above average this year, Fogarty said it really doesn't matter how many storms "are out there overall."
"Whether it's forecast to be an above normal season or below normal, we see there are years where storms really cause a problem here," said Fogarty, the centre's program supervisor. "Things can be bad here even with a prediction of below normal conditions."
Fogarty said it's the intensity of a storm and whether it makes land that often tells the tale.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins Tuesday and runs through Nov. 30.
In 2007, Fogarty said, post-tropical storm Chantal caused serious flooding in southeastern Newfoundland and hurricane Noel hit Nova Scotia's coast with damaging winds, despite a seasonal forecast that called for below normal storm conditions in the Atlantic.
Fogarty said although it's difficult for Canadian forecasters to talk about numbers, since they don't do seasonal models, they are keeping an eye on things like large pressure systems that will make it more likely for significant storms to hit Eastern Canada this year.
"Particularly the pressure pattern south of Nova Scotia and east of the northeastern U.S.," he said.
"We'll be watching that quite closely during June because that's often an indicator of the potential for those storms to curve up into our area."
He said another factor will be the weakening of El Nino in the Pacific Ocean, which creates weaker winds in the upper atmosphere over the Atlantic and increases the potential for storms.
In the U.S., officials issued a similar warning about being prepared.
"If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record," Jane Lubchenco, administrator at the U.S. agency, said in a statement.
"The greater likelihood of storms brings an increased risk of a landfall."
The Canadian hurricane centre said last year was a relatively quiet season as only hurricane Bill and the remnants of tropical storm Danny had any impact on Canada's East Coast.
Bill, a Category 1 hurricane, struck what the centre described as a "glancing blow" as it tracked south of Nova Scotia.
But the storm's powerful winds still ripped branches from trees and caused localized flooding, while pounding coastal areas with violent waves and affecting power to more than 40,000 customers.
Danny, a storm that moved up the eastern seaboard just a few days after Bill, brought heavy rains and gusty winds to most of the Maritimes and Newfoundland.