June 6, 2013 3:20 pm
Updated: June 6, 2013 3:42 pm

Canada has its own history of tropical storms and hurricanes

Hurricane Juan approaches Nova Scotia on September 28, 2003. Each year several storms affect the east coast of Canada.

Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

When most people think of hurricanes, images of wind-ravaged homes or rising waters in Florida or New Orleans inevitably comes to mind. But Canada has its own history of devastating storms.

Every year the east coast of Canada is affected by tropical storms, according to Chris Fogarty, Manager of the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Halifax.

Watch: Tropical Storm Andrea arrives in Florida

Hurricane Juan was one of the most devastating storms to ever hit Nova Scotia. That storm made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on September 29, 2003, with sustained wind gusts of 158 km/h. Hundreds of thousands of people on the east coast in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island lost power. Much of the forests east of the eye in Nova Scotia were decimated.

A map showing all the tracks of hurricanes and tropical storms that have affected eastern Canada.

Canadian Hurricane Centre

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And just because you’re inland, don’t think that you can’t be affected. 

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States. Its high winds struck Ontario, creating power outages from southwestern to eastern Ontario. Many areas, including Sarnia, experienced heavy wind damage. And in 1954 Hurricane Hazel killed 81 people and dropped a record rainfall of 225 mm in southern and central Ontario. As a result it reshaped Toronto’s waterfront.

“Storms have a far-reaching extent, so that cloud area may spread out three- or four-hundred kilometres north of the track,” said Fogarty. “That may spread a swath of wind or rain over the land areas, even though the centre may remain off shore. That happens quite a bit.”

Tropical Storm Andrea isn’t forecast to become a hurricane, but it will impact Canada.

“We could get a fair bit of rain and gusty winds here, in the Maritimes,” he said. “By the time it gets here…it might not be all that much different from a nasty wind and rain low pressure system. I’m not expecting anything too alarming with this system… It’s going to have some embedded downpours that could cause a little bit of flooding locally.”

The past few years have definitely brought an increase in tropical storms, Fogarty said.

“Since the mid-90s we’ve had a lot more than the long-term average and we think that may not be man-made related, climate-change…it may be more a natural cycle that we know about. It usually lasts 25 years… It could very well be that a decade from now things will settle down.”

As for this year’s hurricane season, Fogarty said, “We’re certainly expecting things to be hyperactive this year. Water temperatures are running above normal…We’re geared for it.”

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