Impossible to predict if another Igor will land this hurricane season

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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The road to Lower Lance Cove, Random Island, is cratered and torn apart as a result of hurricane Igor. -Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

There is no way to predict whether or not a storm as powerful as hurricane Igor will pound Newfoundland this year.

“It's impossible to say,” says Bob Robichaud of the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, but according to Robichaud, picks up in August and peaks in September.

People in eastern Newfoundland are quite familiar with that trend, especially after Igor ripped through the region last Sept. 21.

The hurricane swept a Random Island man out to sea, washed out roads, toppled trees and flooded homes.

Robichaud expects Igor is now the benchmark, and he knows people wonder if a storm as powerful is on the way.

“There will be people that are nervous because of what they went through last year,” he says.

“I expect we'll see that for the next few years.”

While he says he’s confident in that prediction, forecasting another Igor is a different story.

Robichaud says that level of predictability is not there yet.

Hurricane forecasting is done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States.

According to Robichaud, that organization is expecting between 12 and 18 named storms this season.

Six to 10 of those are predicted to become hurricanes, with three to six reaching intense status.

Three storms have obtained tropical storm designation thus far — Arlene, Brett and Cindy.

Robichaud points out the forecast is for the level of activity in the entire ocean basin, that you can never say exactly where or if a storm will reach land.

Where a hurricane or tropical storm goes, depends on the weather that day, he explains.

That’s  what happened with Igor. It was a Category 1 hurricane that joined forces with a trough of low pressure, resulting in the heavy rainfall.

While he can't say if there'll be another Igor in 2011, Robichaud expects one or two tropical or post-tropical storm will make landfall in Atlantic Canada.

Another two or three will pass through the region’s marine waters.

He says he basis that on what’s typically happened over the past 50 years.

“Usually there is something. Very rarely is there absolutely nothing.”

While some feel the province is being hit with hurricanes more frequently than in the past, Robichaud says that’s not the case.

He explains there’s been an increase in the level of activity in the Atlantic Ocean since 1995, but historically, such increases are cyclical and lasts 20 to 30 years.

He says he expects the next few years will be active as well, unless hurricane formation is inhibited by an El Nino, a warm ocean current that develops in the Pacific.

 

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: Canadian Hurricane Centre, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Halifax.The Atlantic, Random Island Atlantic Canada.Another Atlantic Ocean

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  • Juanita
    July 25, 2011 - 10:19

    Mr. Bartlett, the feature picture drew my attention to your article which I read with interest. However, I'm doing this comment for clarification purposes. The Random Island Man, Allen Duffett, was not swept out to sea, he was swept away when the driveway where he was standing gave way. His body was buried underneath debris and was found by his son and his son's family along with other family members. Like other Newfoundlanders who experienced the destruction and tragedy of Igor, I hope it is not an experience we will have to live through again.