Will New Jersey get whacked by a hurricane this year?
For the next month or so, New Jersey will be in prime hurricane season, the time when we're most likely to be affected by a powerful storm system from the Caribbean.
But what are the chances of the Garden State actually getting one?
“A direct landfall from a hurricane is extremely rare in New Jersey. However, to be impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane is not all that unusual,” said Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University.
He noted if a storm system approaches, “it may stay off shore and throw some heavy surf and rip currents along the coast.”
If it goes inland as it comes up the Atlantic coast, it may cause windy, rainy days. If it hugs the Jersey coast, Robinson said, "that can really put a hit on New Jersey.”
The outlook for hurricane season put out by the National Hurricane Center in late May called for above-average storm activity but the prediction was downgraded earlier this month.
“Now they consider we have a 60 percent probability of below-average activity, 30 percent near normal, and only a 10 percent change of above-normal tropical activity in the Atlantic basin this season," Robinson said this week.
The Hurricane Center has predicted nine to 13 named storms (there have been five already), four to seven hurricanes (there have already been two), and up to two major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
Robinson said there are several reasons for the turnaround, including the fact that sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean and the Atlantic remain below-average and an el Niño event has begun in the tropical Pacific, which inhibits the development of storms.
He also noted that drier than normal air has been dominating the Caribbean, which also inhibits the development of major storms.
But Robinson said “it only takes one storm, even in a minimal season, one storm can wreck havoc.”
In 1992, a Category 5 Hurricane Andrew lashed the Bahamas and Florida, killing 65 people and destroying more than 63,000 homes while causing billions of dollars in damage.
Until Andrew made landfall in mid-August, that year's hurricane season had been tame.