One critical piece of information to prepare for current storms is to understand landfall patterns of historical hurricanes. NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks mapping application can easily generate customized maps based on more than 150 years of Atlantic hurricane data.
"The Historical Hurricane Tracks tool allows visitors to quickly and easily conduct highly customized searches of historical data for hurricanes, whether along the U.S. coast or around the world. Understanding the history of hurricane landfalls in your community is an important step toward assessing your vulnerability to these potentially devastating storms," said Ethan Gibney, a NOAA Senior Geospatial Analyst and one of the developers of the tool.
Developed by the NOAA Coastal Services Center in partnership with NOAA's National Hurricane Center and the agency's National Climatic Data Center, the Historical Hurricane Tracks tool allows users to search by place name, storm name or year, or latitude and longitude points. With the search results, users can generate a map showing the track of the storm or storms accompanied by a table of related information.
NOAA's Historical Hurricane Tracks website includes tropical cyclone data and information on coastal county hurricane strikes data through 2010. Data for previous years is added every May as this is the month that the Weather Service releases the information.
It also features a searchable database of population changes versus hurricane strikes for U.S. coastal counties from 1900 to 2000 and includes detailed reports on the life history and effects of U.S. tropical cyclones since 1958. In addition, the site contains global hurricane data from as far back as 1842.
A record number of visitors accessed the Historical Hurricane Tracks tool as Hurricane Irene approached the U.S. East Coast. Tens of thousands of distinct visits were made to the site from August 22 to 30, peaking with more than 19,000 visits on August 26 (Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina on August 27). Users from New England made up over 27 percent of the site visitors during this period. The tool was mentioned in a variety of media pieces, including local television news reports, the New York Times, and a Weather Underground blog.
Past storm tracks cannot be used as a predictive tool for future storm events. But looking at this historical record brings history to life. The Historical Hurricanes Tracks reminds people how storms have impacted their communities, and how the storms can vary greatly in intensity and path. The take home message for everyone is to be respectful of all storm warnings and to be prepared.