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 Blog Post

Be Prepared: Hurricane Hazards in PA

May 07, 2021 08:45 AM
By: Jeff Jumper, PEMA, State Meteorologist

Sign with exclamation point in the rain

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is nearing quickly – beginning June 1! According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30.

Hurricane Statistics

NOAA will issue its initial seasonal outlook for the 2021 hurricane season in late May. However, NOAA has already updated the set of statistics they use to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the climate record. This update process occurs once every decade. The average annual count for tropical systems was updated to reflect the most recent 30 years of hurricane data, which includes the years 1991-2020.

So, the new 30-year average gives us:

  • 14 named storms (up 2)
  • 7 hurricanes (up 1)
  • 3 major hurricanes (no change)

The hurricane season has shown a more active trend of both hurricanes and tropical storms over the past few decades.

Learn more about hurricane hazards in PA and how you can be ready below.

PA Hurricane Hazards and What to Expect

The difference between hurricanes and (named) tropical storms comes down to wind speed. A tropical storm has maximum sustained surface winds ranging from 39-73 mph. Whereas a hurricane has maximum sustained surface winds of 74 mph or greater (64 knots or greater).

Regardless, both can cause significant damage. As a result, when we talk about hurricane hazards, we are talking about what we can expect to experience from both hurricanes and tropical storms in Pennsylvania.

Hazards related to hurricanes and tropical storms include rain, wind, tornadoes, waves, and storm surges. However, in Pennsylvania, we focus on rain, wind, and tornadoes, and the damage these can cause since our coastal areas are limited. 

Rain (Flooding)

Inland river and flash flooding from heavy rain is the most common threat statewide, and flooding is the most likely threat from a tropical system in Pennsylvania. You don’t have to live in a flood zone to see the threat of flooding. In fact, 20 percent of all flood claims are for properties outside of high-risk flood areas. Half of the lives lost due to flooding are in vehicles, so never attempt to drive through flood waters.

Wind/Tornado (Damage)

Hurricanes can bring damaging wind and tornadoes. Tropical Storm Isaias in 2020 brought two tornadoes, one being an EF-2 tornado in a populated area of Montgomery County, injuring six. Tornadoes are 4th on the list of our top ten threats we face in Pennsylvania.

Don’t think a tornado can affect you? Since 1950, tornadoes have been recorded in every county of the state. In 2019 alone, there were 34 tornadoes, the second highest annual tally in the state (1998 tops the list with 61).

Learn More

Learn more about PA hazards and how tropical storms and hurricanes can affect you and your family’s safety.

Get more information from the Ready PA monthly newsletter.

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