Too Close for Comfort?

It would be the understatement of the year to say this year’s recreational boating season has been one of the most memorable in decades — and not for all the right reasons.

Boaters in Atlantic Canada have pretty much seen it all this year. From gale-force winds, to torrential rainstorms, to terrifying wildfires — for many it might be a season to forget as boaters start to think about securing and winterizing their crafts for another year.

And of course, a sailing season would not be complete in this region without a visit from at least one named tropical storm/hurricane. This year it happened to be post-tropical storm Lee.

Luckily, Lee did not pack the same punch as other storms, such as 2022’s devastating Fiona.

As you are reading this, the 2023 hurricane season is starting to wind down, so hopefully we will not be visited by anything in the next few weeks with a name beginning with one of the last letters of the alphabet.

While the 2023 hurricane season was predicted to be an overall average one by the Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC), this is cold comfort to all you boaters who had to endure the time, expense and worry of securing your vessel with Hurricane Lee bearing down on you.

Veteran sailors across Atlantic Canada have certainly experienced their fair share of damaging storms down through the decades. But they will be the first to tell you that the frequency and ferocity of the storms they have witnessed in the past pale in comparison to what we are living through now — almost on an annual basis.

This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted there would be a 70 per cent chance that the Atlantic Ocean would see between 14 to 21 named storms, of which six to 11 would become hurricanes. Unfortunately, the NOAA prediction was spot on. At the writing of this editorial, tropical storm Philippe was forming in the eastern Caribbean, with a predicted northwest track. Once again, way too close for comfort.

Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist with the CHC, probably summed up this new climatic normal best.

“It only takes one storm to make it a bad year, so we’ve got to prepare for the one single storm that can have a huge impact,” said Robichaud. “Last year is a good example of that with Fiona. We had only one storm made landfall in Canada last year, but it was a doozy with Fiona. Remember, that it only takes that one storm to make it a bad year.”

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