When word broke about Hurricane Alex forming in January 2016 near the Azores, I was shocked. How could the ocean still be warm enough this late (or early) in the season to support the formation of a tropical storm? It turns out that, while rare, this January appearance of a hurricane is not unprecedented. It has happened a handful of times in December. Only twice in the last 80 years has a Category 1 hurricane that was still churning in December held on into January. The last time, however, that a tropical disturbance organized itself into a hurricane in January was 1938. Yes, 1938, the year that the most destructive hurricane to ever hit New England blew through on September 21.
When researching for my book on that hurricane, Thirty-Eight, I was amused when I first heard someone say that hurricanes in New England are natural but exceedingly rare. How rare? Three times since Columbus landed in 1492 has a hurricane brought Category 1 winds (greater than 74 m.p.h.) into interior New England. The last time was in 1938, and it was both unforeseen and devastating. So yes, it’s perfectly natural but thankfully it doesn’t happen every year. Same with Hurricane Alex, this winter’s hurricane. Natural but rare. And we on the western shore of the Atlantic needn’t worry about seeing any of Alex. He’s expected to turn northward, run out of warm ocean, and become a memory.