Cape May – A Year without Hurricanes

Cape May, NJ – So, where are the hurricanes?

In a normal year, Cape May would not be asking such a question.

But after the island was evacuated for Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012,  this was not a normal year.
The one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy this week is bringing the question into focus.

Even though Sandy spared Cape May last year, we were still concerned.  It didn’t help ease our apprehensions when the weather experts predicted an active hurricane season this year.

Instead of fierce storms, Cape May got two months of dry, suuny and hot weather in August and September, courtesy of Africa.

A very hot and dry August and September.

Where Hurricanes Come From

Hurricanes frequently commence as tropical waves leaving the west coast of Africa in summer and early fall.
The winds that carry these waves come off the Sahara and Sahel regions of Africa and this year those winds were particularly dry.
Some even carried large quantities of dust out over the ocean.

The dry air and dust basically stole the potential energy from these storms by preventing them from gathering moisture and power.
As they proceeded out into the Atlantic, they never became strong enough to make it all the way to the Atlantic Coast.
There just wasn’t the energy and moisture at the right times or in the right place, as there was with Sandy.

Sandy beginning to pound Cape May beaches, October 29, 2012

Is It Safe?

So does that mean it’s all over for the year?

With the the Atlantic beginning to cool down for the fall, the hurricane threat likely is over.

No major hurricanes have made landfall on the Jersey Shore in November since the 1850′s.

Only two per cent of major hurricanes have occurred in November in that entire 160 year period. When these storms develop so late in the season, they almost always lose power before moving north into mid-Atlantic latitudes.

So, even though the official hurricane season closes at the end of November, it’s unlikely that Cape May or anywhere in the mid-Atlantic will have to dig out from a major hurricane this year.


After Sandy, near Poverty Beach

Cape May was lucky to have escaped any serious damage from Sandy last year. Now it seems we are even more fortunate.

After the back to back storms of Irene and Sandy, we finally have a year without hurricanes.

Archive of 2012 Sandy Stories

About Paul Kerlinger

Paul Kerlinger, Ph.D. is a scientist, author and nationally known expert on bird migration. He's done extensive studies on hawks, Snowy Owls and neotropical song birds. Kerlinger is the former director of the Cape May Bird Observatory, His books include How Birds Migrate and Flight Strategies of Migrating Hawks. He's an ardent fly fisherman and organic vegetable gardener.