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June 1 marks the start of hurricane season, with peak activity typically occurring in August and September. The Bay State was hit with at least one hurricane nearly every decade during most of the 20th century. At a Category 2 on the Saffir/Simpson scale, Hurricane Bob in 1991 caused nearly $40 million in damage in Massachusetts alone. Bob's impact pales, however, when compared to the two Category 3 storms—Hurricanes Carol and Edna—that hit back to back in 1954. Even worse was the Great New England Hurricane of 1938, which generated sustained winds of 121 miles per hour, the strongest ever recorded at the Blue Hill Observatory. (For additional details, see The Worst Massachusetts Hurricanes of the Twentieth Century.) Given all the coastal development that has occurred in Massachusetts in recent decades, the threat is greater than ever before, and a direct hit from a major hurricane is likely to put thousands of people at risk and cause many millions in damage. For information on how individuals and communities can plan for and deal with coastal storm damage, see the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management's (CZM) StormSmart Coasts website.
To help you keep an eye on the storms this hurricane season, the following websites provide the most relevant and up-to-the-minute prediction and tracking information, organized into the following categories:
National Hurricane Center - This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) website provides a wide range of regularly updated hurricane information. For keeping track of storm tracks, this page includes graphics of current storm positions and links to 3- and 5-day forecast tracks and discussions.
National Weather Service: Boston, MA - This NWS web page provides focused information on Southern New England forecasts. When a storm approaches Massachusetts, this is the place to go for targeted and current information. And when there is a tropical storm or hurricane in the area, see their Coastal Flood Threat and Inundation Mapping page for additional information.
Atlantic Tropical Weather Page - Privately operated by Crown Weather Services, this web page provides an extensive compilation of information on every tropical storm, along with tropical weather outlooks and discussions and a range of satellite and radar images.
Hurricanes and Tropical Cyclones - This Weather Underground web page provides up-to-date information on hurricanes and tropical storms throughout the world.
Model Analyses and Guidance - From the NWS National Centers for Environmental Prediction, this page provides the graphics and discussion details on hurricane forecasts. And while forecasting capabilities continue to improve, always remember that the further out the storm, the less accurate the prediction. On average, between 2000-2009, the 3-day forecasts for landfall were off by 177 miles (measured on land, 154 nautical miles), the 2-day forecasts by 120 miles (104 nautical miles), and the 1-day forecasts by 67 miles (57 nautical miles).
Hurricane Model Plots - You see them on the news as a major hurricane develops—the maps that look like a plate of colored spaghetti or a Jackson Pollock painting. This South Florida Water Management District web page posts model plots showing these lines, which actually represent forecasted storm tracks based on more than a dozen models.
Experimental Forecast Tropical Cyclone Genesis Potential Fields - The field of forecasting hurricanes is constantly evolving. This Florida State University web page provides data from operational models that are being studied for their hurricane forecast ability. Please note that the data are experimental and not official forecasts.
NWS Daily Briefing - Also known as NOAA's All Hazard Monitor, this website provides the current weather forecast and links to information on forecasted weather and other natural hazards.
U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Emergency Management - This site provides extensive information on natural hazards throughout the world. Click on the map image for a worldwide map with links to data on current hazards from hurricanes and flooding to wildfires and earthquakes.
National Data Buoy Center - This NOAA web page includes a map of buoys strategically positioned in coastal and ocean areas around the world to record atmospheric and oceanographic data. To keep an eye on ocean wind speeds and wave heights, click on a buoy icon to get the most recent data, which is typically updated hourly.
Surf Report - New England and Nova Scotia - This web page maintained by stormsurf.com provides color-coded and numerical data on wave heights, along with information on wind direction and speed. The forecast extends for 180 hours.
Sea Surface Temperature Analysis - With hurricanes, the warmer the ocean waters, the stronger the storms. This NWS page includes graphics with sea surface temperatures for the Atlantic Basin.
National Ocean Service Water Level Observation Network - From the National Ocean Service, this website provides data from major tide gauges through the country and the world. Click on Massachusetts on the index map to get state data, which is generated at 6-minute intervals.
Real-Time Data for Massachusetts: Streamflow - This U.S. Geological Survey web page reports current river and stream height from 148 sites in Massachusetts with fairly close to real-time data. This information can be critical when addressing one of the major impacts from hurricanes—inland flooding from excessive rainfall.
Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service: Boston Office - This NWS page provides data on current river and stream levels, forecasted levels, and precipitation forecasts for southeastern New England. Stream and tide gauges throughout the region are color coded by hazard stage; clicking on each gauge gives a graph of the water height as well as a 2-day forecast and a discussion of the types of impact expected in relation to the water level.
Northeast River Forecast Center Briefing Page - See this NWS site for all things hydrological—from observed and forecast river conditions and precipitation forecasts to flash flood guidance and regional hazards information.
Weather Prediction Center - This NWS website provides precipitation forecasts (short-range to 7-day forecasts) and includes links to excessive rainfall forecasts.
NOAA Satellites and Information - This page includes NOAA satellite imagery for the United States, with complete data for the world available. Images are available at different resolutions and custom loops can be created for up to two week's worth of imagery.
NASA Earth Observatory - From the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this website includes satellite images for the entire globe, featuring severe storms, flooding, and other natural hazards, as well as global maps with total rainfall amounts and sea-surface temperatures.
Environment Canada Satellite Images - This section of this Canadian government web page provides satellite imagery all the way from Canada down through the Gulf of Mexico to track the full impact of a hurricane throughout North America.
Naval Oceanographic Office Special Support - This page includes highly technical information with links to a variety of images, including North Atlantic Composites (showing ocean temperatures).
Unisys Weather - Unisys is a developer of computer/information technology to forecast weather. This page provides information for the advanced hurricane enthusiast on satellite imagery, model forecasts, and the techniques and technology behind them.
Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project's Forecast - Since 1983, this project has been making annual predictions about hurricane activity. See this web page for updates on the annual forecast, as well as links to past forecasts.
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) - This website is a hub of information for emergency situations in Massachusetts.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) - The FEMA website includes information on preparing for disasters such as hurricanes, how to get assistance after a disaster, and updates and ongoing activities.
For more about hurricanes in Massachusetts, see the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) 2002 Coastlines magazine. And to be sure that you are ready to weather this potential threat, see CZM's Hurricane Preparedness Kit.