Baltimore, MD - Mike Masco
A heated debate continues to roll on since " superstorm " Sandy came ashore in late October. Where was the hurricane warning from the National Hurricane Center/NOAA?
A few days prior to Hurricane Sandy's landfall over the New Jersey shoreline, the National Hurricane Center made the decision to stop the issuance of Hurricane Warnings north of North Carolina. The reasoning behind their decision was due to the type of storm Sandy would essentially take on when the storm came ashore.
Even though Hurricane Sandy would remain a dangerous storm with the same wind speed as a hurricane, same storm surge of a Category 2 hurricane, and the same tropical rains- it would become what is classified as a "Post Tropical Cyclone".
The National Hurricane Center ( NHC ) issues advisories, forecasts, and warnings on tropical cyclones - the generic term for hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. Sometime prior to making landfall, Hurricane Sandy is expected to lose its characteristics as a tropical cyclone and take on the structure of a wintertime low-pressure area. Because the National Hurricane Center only issues advisories on tropical cyclones, there will be changes in the flow of information coming out of the NWS when this transition occurs.
The debate surrounding this move is whether people took Hurricane Sandy seriously given the fact there weren't any hurricane warnings in place. From a layman standpoint when you hear a storm is coming and there are no warnings you are more inclined to brush it off! Terms such as "Hurricane Warning" "Tornado Warning" Tropical Storm Warning" all hold the most weight since you are more inclined to take it seriously given the word WARNING is associated with it.
At a definition standpoint the National Hurricane Center did their job however, if a storm is capable of producing the same effects as a Hurricane with a different titled- why downplay it? If it walks like a duck and quakes like a duck, is it a chicken?
Hours before landfall, AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers urged the National Hurricane Center ( NHC ) to reverse its decision to not issue hurricane or tropical storm warnings for Sandy north of North Carolina.
"To indicate that there is a land falling hurricane, and to issue warnings about it, is the most effective thing that can be done to warn the public," Myers said.
Dr Ryan Maue from Weatherbell.com provided some incite to this issue as well:
"Too many weird things happened with Sandy. Add in the Presidential Election, insurance regulation changes in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011, the bizarrely confusing messaging / warnings out of NHC , and the weird post-storm assessment cancellation & revamping without private sector influence -- it all equals a very interesting story to unravel with economic, political, and of course meteorological implications. "
Since the debacle and further debate the consideration has been made to revise policy surrounding the issuance of Hurricane alerts before and during an event.
Early this week NOAA released this statement:
"A proposal was raised during the NOAA Hurricane Conference last week for NWS to have the option to issue hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings for post-tropical cyclones that threaten life and property. This is one step in the process required before any proposed change to operational products becomes final." As part of our review of the 2012 hurricane season, including the Sandy service assessment, we will review all policies and changes through the existing and established process"
This will be a very interesting story to watch evolve over the coming months. It is my hope we gain a clearer policy going into the 2013 hurricane season.