Hurricane IreneIn Vermont, we rarely think of hurricanes and hurricane season. The disastrous flooding caused by Irene changed all that. Happy-go-lucky Vermont homeowners who used to just close a window or two during bad weather are now subscribing to the National Hurricane Center’s Twitter feed and TIVOing the Weather Channel’s storm broadcasts.

The National Weather Service gives the official dates of the Atlantic hurricane season as June 1st through November 30th. The Pacific hurricane season is a couple weeks longer, starting on May 15th. Hurricane categories (one through five) are based on maximum sustained winds alone. They are not based on the size or duration of the storm, the storm surge, the resulting rainfall, or the number of people expected to be effected by the storm.

Hurricane Katrina was a Category 5. It caused approximately $85 Billion in damages (some say it caused $250 Billion in damages and even spawned a new musical genre). Hurricane Irene was a Category 3 (it almost made “Cat 4″) and caused an estimated $7-17 Billion in damages (According to the New York Times, Hurricane Irene will most likely prove to be one of the 10 costliest catastrophes in the nation’s history, and I don’t think they have factored in the rebuilding of Vermont’s historic covered bridges).

Regardless of the size and ferocity of the storm, few hurricanes actually make it all the way to Vermont. In the 20th Century, only eight storms made a notable impact on Vermont:

  • 1927 – In November, what started as a tropical storm ended as snow and caused $4o Million in damages.
  • 1938 – A Category 3 storm pummeled New England and entered Vermont as a Category Two.
  • 1976 – Hurricane Belle (hurricanes were not officially named by the National Hurricane Center until 1953, before then, locals had plenty of unprintable names for them) skirted the Vermont/New Hampshire border. It was considered a minor storm, though winds topped out at 90 MPH in Connecticut and 75 MPH in Rhode Island.
  • 2002 – In September, Tropical Storm Hanna caused 1 inch of rainfall in Vermont (a lovely mist compared to the 5-8 inches dumped by Irene).
  • 2003 – Again in September, Hurricane Isabel’s strong winds downed trees and power lines, causing $100,000 in damages in Vermont.
  • 2005 – Hurricane Cindy produced 1-3 inches of rainfall in Northern Vermont.
  • 2006 – Katrina produced gusty winds that downed trees across Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Nothing compared to the storm’s devastation in New Orleans and elsewhere.

There are two chances of getting hit by a hurricane in Vermont: Fat and Slim. But storms are getting stronger and more frequent (and the hurricane center is tracking them better). Hurricanes can and do cause problems and property damage in Vermont. They can wash away your driveway and flood your basement.

What can you do about it? You can’t do much about the weather, but you can do some thing to about preventing excessive water damage in your home:

  • Make sure any grading in your yard is sloped away from your home
  • Keep your gutters cleaned and maintained
  • Ensure that downspouts run off away from your home
  • Use a sump pump
  • Check for cracks in your foundation – epoxy inject them
  • Have an emergency plan for your family and your power source

Related reading:
The Largest Hurricanes

Vermont Flood Insurance
Prepare for a Hurricane

Hurricane Irene image credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video