June 1 marks the start of hurricane season, with peak activity typically occurring in August and September. The Worst Massachusetts Hurricanes of the Twentieth Century describes direct hits to the Commonwealth from past Category 2 and 3 hurricanes on the Saffir/Simpson scale. Given the increased frequency and intensity of storms from climate change, along with all the coastal development that has occurred in Massachusetts in recent decades, the threat is greater than ever before. 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, tracking information, and emergency alerts, organized into the following categories:
Current Forecasts and Storm Tracks
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/Norton, MA - This NWS web page provides focused information on Massachusetts forecasts, current conditions, warnings/advisories, hazards, and more, complete with a prominent weather map. And when there is a tropical storm or hurricane in the area, see their Coastal Flood Threat and Inundation Mapping page for additional information.
Hurricane 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.
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.
Announcements and Emergency Management
Mass.gov - During major storms, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website provides information about emergency declarations and other safety issues.
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) - This website is a hub of information for emergency situations in Massachusetts. The Be Prepared for Emergencies site discusses how to receive emergency alerts, make emergency plans, and get involved in emergency preparedness.
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.
Tropical Storms and Other Hazards
NWS Daily Briefing - This website provides the current weather forecast and links to information on forecasted weather and other natural hazards.
Weather Prediction Center - The hub of NWS forecast information, this website provides access to interactive forecast maps for severe weather hazards, precipitation (short-range to 7-day forecasts), excessive rainfall, and winter weather, along with links to forecast and analyses information, tools, storm summaries, and more.
NWS Safety Tips - Along with the information on hurricanes, other potential hazards such as air quality, drought, floods, fog, heat, rip currents, thunderstorms, and more are posted here.
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.
New England Surf Reports and Surf Forecasts - This MagicSeaweed.com web page features swell and wind charts for the New England region, along with detailed surf reports for wind speeds, wave heights, and tides for 28 coastal Massachusetts sites.
Sea Surface Temperature Analysis - With hurricanes, the warmer the ocean waters, the stronger the storms. This NOAA page includes graphics with sea surface temperatures for the Atlantic Basin.
Tide and River Data
Water Levels - This NOAA 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.
Current Conditions for Massachusetts: Streamflow - This U.S. Geological Survey web page reports current river and stream height from 155 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.
NOAA Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service - This website provides global environmental data and information from satellites and other sources. Images are available at different resolutions, and custom loops can be created for up to two weeks of imagery. All of the Geosynchronous Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-East images depict Massachusetts and the East Coast at various scales and are based on different types of sensing technology. The GOES-East imagery is also available in a world-view SLIDER.
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 and Animation - The GOES-East section of this Canadian government web page presents NOAA satellite data for Canada down through the Gulf of Mexico.
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.
More on Hurricanes
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.