Meteorologists: New England Overdue for Big Hurricane

New England could be in for a big one. Meteorologists say conditions — including warmer temperatures in the Atlantic Basin and cooler temperatures in the Pacific Ocean — are ripe for the Northeast coast to be hit by a whopper of a hurricane this season.

Ken Reeves, a senior meteorologist at the AccuWeather Center in State College, Pa., said that when the Pacific is cooler, it "essentially drives the storm track further to the east in the Atlantic Ocean basin."

He predicts the East Coast north of the Mid-Atlantic states could see a Category 3 hurricane, a storm that could resemble the devastating systems that hit New England between the 1930s and 1950s.

"There are some eerie similarities to the pattern of the 1938 hurricane," he said.

A 1938 storm known as the "The Long Island Express" remains the region's worst hurricane. Its 121-mph winds gusted to 183 mph and caused massive flooding, power outages and wind damage throughout the region, leaving 600 people dead.

During recent decades, New Englanders mostly have experienced only the remnants of storms that hit other parts of the country, such as Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and Hurricane Bob in 1991, which brought heavy rains, localized flooding and power outages.

If a big storm did hit, the New Hampshire coast might be spared the worst of the damage because it is sheltered compared to areas like Cape Cod, Portland, Maine, and Long Island, N.Y., Reeves said.

Lourdes Aviles, a Plymouth State University assistant meteorology professor, said Reeves' forecast sounds right. That New England hasn't had a strong hurricane in 50 years could signal the region's luck is running out, she said.

John Jensenius, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said his group has been concerned for years that a strong hurricane could strike New England's coast.

Hurricane activity tends to be cyclical, he said. Every 50 years, a pattern develops that increases the potential for a major storm. But that doesn't mean a storm is imminent.

"The chances of one happening this year is no greater than it was last year," Jensenius said.