05/24/2013 10:59 EDT | Updated 07/24/2013 05:12 EDT

Active hurricane season expected, centre tells Atlantic residents to get ready

HALIFAX - The Canadian Hurricane Centre is backing U.S. predictions of an active season this year, telling residents in the Atlantic provinces to brace themselves for a handful of major hurricanes.

But Chris Fogarty, the centre's program supervisor, said Friday there's no way of predicting how many of those storms will make land.

Fogarty said there is little correlation between the number of storms that form in the North Atlantic and the number that make their way into Canadian waters.

"We have a good sense of whether the season will be hyperactive or not, but as far as where these storms are likely to be, we can't really say much more than the typical path that they take," said Fogarty.

"All it takes is a shift in the atmospheric pressure pattern further west and then you get a lot more landfalls."

Fogarty said an unusually warm tropical Atlantic Ocean is one of the factors behind the forecast of an active hurricane season, which continues a 15-year period of high hurricane activity.

He said a cooling trend in the eastern Pacific Ocean is creating La Nina-type conditions, which could affect the atmosphere over the Atlantic and increase the risk of storm activity.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States is predicting a 70 per cent likelihood of 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms.

It predicts seven to 11 could strengthen into hurricanes and three to six could become major hurricanes, similar to what happened last hurricane season, said Fogarty.

But regardless of the number of storms predicted, it only takes one major storm to make it a bad season, said Fogarty.

"People need to think longer term in terms of their property's vulnerability, stuff that you can't really do in the few days before the storm, and then think about shorter-term ways of being prepared," he said.

That could involve stocking up on water, non-perishable food, and batteries, among other things, he said.

The season officially begins June 1, but will ramp up in mid-August until mid-October, said Fogarty.

About one or two storms directly affect Canada each year, the centre said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a normal year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major storms with winds over 175 kilometres an hour.

Last year was the third-busiest on record in the United States with 19 named storms. Ten became hurricanes and two were major storms, including Sandy, even though it lost hurricane status when it made landfall in New Jersey. That storm killed 147 people and caused $50 billion in damage.

Hurricane Isaac was the only storm to make it ashore in the U.S. as a hurricane last year, which ended up in Louisiana after hitting the Caribbean.