Published: June 6,2017
If you live in the interior Northeast – 100 or more miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean – hurricane season is probably one of the last things on your mind.
The season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, although storms can also form outside of those dates. Tropical storm and hurricane activity during the six-month season typically reaches a peak during the late summer and early fall, namely from August into October.
While areas along the Gulf and East coasts run the greatest risk of tropical cyclones, even interior portions of the Northeast can see impacts from these storms.
(MORE: Hurricanes and Tropical Storms in June: Where Do They Form?)
Dave Bujak, an emergency preparedness manager at the University of Rochester, recently wrote a blog post explaining why residents of western New York should care about hurricane season, but this can also be applied to the entire interior Northeast region.
Visible satellite image of Hurricane Irene as it dumps flooding rains on the interior Northeast Aug. 28, 2011.Here are six impacts interior Northeast residents could experience during a tropical storm or hurricane.
1. Heavy Rainfall and FloodingThe biggest threat from any tropical system or its remnants to hit the region is heavy rainfall and flooding.
2011 was a prime example, when Tropical Storm Irene and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee moved through portions of the Northeast in about a week. Those two storms brought catastrophic flooding to portions of Pennsylvania, New York and New England from late August into early September.
At least a dozen towns in Vermont were cut off from the rest of the state as Irene's flooding knocked out bridges and destroyed roadways, according to ABC News. The tropical storm dumped up to 11 inches of rain in parts of the Green Mountain State.
Portions of New York's southern tier were devastated by Lee's remnants as 6 to 12 inches of rain fell over the region. Record river crests were observed along the main branch of the Susquehanna River in the Binghamton area, causing the river to overflow its banks and flood the surrounding communities under several feet of water.
The city of Binghamton, New York, was under water during the Sept. 7-8, 2011, flood event from Tropical Storm Lee's remnants.The National Weather Service in Binghamton said the damage in the upper Susquehanna River Basin in New York and Pennsylvania totaled close to $1 billion.
(Bill Walsh/National Weather Service-Binghamton)
(Bill Walsh/National Weather Service-Binghamton)
(MORE: 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast)
2. Storm SurgeLocated 100-plus miles from the coast, storm surge from a tropical cyclone is not a direct threat to the interior Northeast, but the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane could potentially be trouble for the shorelines of the Great Lakes – mainly lakes Erie and Ontario.
Strong winds associated with a tropical system or its remnant low would push water up against the lakeshore, which may cause erosion along the shoreline.
(MORE: Hurricane Matthew Carved a New Inlet Along the Florida Coast)
The Lake Ontario shoreline has already suffered a beating this spring due to record-high water levels caused by snowmelt and a rainy spring.
During Sandy in 2012, significant flooding from storm surge (enhanced by rainfall) occurred in New York's Hudson River Valley as far north as Albany, according to a National Hurricane Center report.
3. High WindsHurricane-force winds typically diminish significantly well inland from the coast. The furthest inland hurricane-force winds measured was 100 miles from the coast: Charlotte, North Carolina, from Hurricane Hugo's Category 4 landfall near Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, in September 1989.
Therefore, these sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are extremely unlikely in the interior Northeast as a result of a tropical system. Gusty winds are still possible, however, from the remnants of a tropical storm or hurricane, which could down tree limbs or power lines.
Hurricane-force wind gusts are still possible in the interior Northeast, as we saw in March. Wind gusts over 80 mph caused major damage in the Rochester, New York, area, including a train derailment in Batavia.
These winds were associated with a strong low-pressure system – not a hurricane – that swept across the Great Lakes region into the interior Northeast.
(MORE: 6 Things to Know About the 2017 Hurricane Season)
4. TornadoesTornadoes are one of several dangers hurricanes, tropical storms and their remnants can unleash as they move inland.
Tornadoes from tropical systems make up an average of over 20 percent of all United States tornadoes during the month of August, and sometimes 50 percent or more of all tornadoes in September, according to Dr. Greg Forbes, severe weather expert for The Weather Channel. Such tornadoes develop mostly in bands of thunderstorms and intense showers outside the eyewall, about 50 to 250 miles from the hurricane or tropical storm center.
The majority of the tornadoes spawned by tropical storms and hurricanes are short-lived and of the weaker EF0 or EF1 variety, but some can reach EF2 or EF3 intensity.
(MORE: Your Average Tornado Risk by Month)
Hurricane Ivan tornado damage in Wilkes County, Georgia, in September 2004.In the active 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, Forbes found about 8.5 percent of the 558 total tornadoes spawned by tropical storms and hurricanes in those two seasons were rated F2 or F3 intensity. The remaining 91.5 percent were rated either F0 or F1.
Only two F4 tornadoes have been documented from hurricanes moving inland.
On Sept. 10, 1961, Hurricane Carla spawned an F4 tornado that killed eight people in Galveston, Texas. A few years later, on Oct. 3, 1964, an F4 tornado from Hurricane Hilda killed 22 people in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana.
(MORE: 5 Hurricanes That Produced the Most Tornadoes)
5. Marine HazardsThis isn't just an issue in the ocean – the remnants of a tropical cyclone can churn up the waves on larger lakes, such as the Great Lakes.
Bujak said surfers "searching for the perfect wave" aren't the only ones known to have drowned on Lake Ontario as an indirect result of a tropical system's remnants.
"Swimmers, paddle boarders, kayakers, all the way up to significant vessels are all at risk from extreme marine conditions churned up by a tropical or post-tropical system," he added.
Sandy's incredibly large wind field churned up large waves as far west as Lake Michigan in 2012, resulting in some coastal flooding.
6. The Other Indirect Impacts on the Interior NortheastIf a tropical cyclone or its remnants affect the East Coast but not interior portions of the region, there are still some indirect impacts that could be felt.
- As was the case with Superstorm Sandy, resources from upstate New York were needed to assist with recovery efforts in New York City and other parts of the Northeast coast.
- If a significant tropical threat exists along the East Coast and residents are told to evacuate, they will need to drive to interior locations well away from the coast, possibly creating congestion in an otherwise not busy area.
- Most resources in the interior Northeast come from East Coast ports, airports, railways and roadways. If a tropical system strikes the East Coast, these resources may be temporarily reduced or unavailable.
- The economic impacts of a catastrophe near the coast would spread well west of the immediate disaster zone, according to Bujak.
Brian Donegan is a digital meteorologist at weather.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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