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Hurricanes Hit Canada 'More Often Than You Think'

Hurricane Maria's projected path. (Image credit: NHC/NOAA)

Hurricane Maria is barreling toward Newfoundland, Canada, today (Sept. 16) and coastal areas there are under a hurricane warning, though Canada isn't the first the place you think of as being hurricane-prone.

But tropical hurricanes hit Canada "more often than you think," said the National Hurricane Center's Dennis Feltgen. "We just don't hear a lot about it."

Newfoundland is a favorite target for hurricanes; more than a dozen have affected Avalon Peninsula, where the province's capital, St. John's, is located, and where Maria is headed.

One of Newfoundland's more damaging hurricanes hit just last year. On Sept. 21, 2010, Hurricane Igor made landfall as a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane strength, prompting widespread evacuations and causing major flooding.

Environment Canada lists 18 destructive hurricanes that have hit the country. Canada's best-known hurricane was Hurricane Hazel, which struck southwestern Ontario on Oct. 14 to 15, 1954. The storm killed more than 80 people as floods swept through Toronto.

Hurricane watchers are hopeful that Maria won't be so damaging. Over the next few hours, hurricane conditions, such as a storm surge and destructive waves, are expected in southeastern Newfoundland, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Maria, the third hurricane of the 2011 season , is a Category 1 storm with sustained winds of up to 75 mph (120 kph). The storm is moving to the northeast at 52 mph (83 kph).

The other two hurricanes that have formed so far this season were Irene and Katia. Irene made multiple landfalls as it swept up the U.S. East Coast late last month. Katia stayed out at sea for most of its lifetime, only edging by the outer Caribbean islands and Bermuda, until it arced its way to the British Isles, which it hit as a tropical storm .

The season was predicted to be a doozy, with 14 to 19 named storms (which include tropical storms and hurricanes), seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). So far there have been 14 named storms (Nate formed shortly after Maria, but dissipated after striking Mexico shortly after it developed), two hurricanes and two major hurricanes (Irene and Katia).

You can follow OurAmazingPlanet staff writer Brett Israel on Twitter: @btisrael. Follow OurAmazingPlanet for the latest in Earth science and exploration news on Twitter @OAPlanet and on Facebook.

Brett Israel was a staff writer for Live Science with a focus on environmental issues. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from The University of Georgia, a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, and has studied doctorate-level biochemistry at Emory University.