The Weather Service just released its Hurricane Sandy “Service Assessment.” Publications like this aren’t unusual. Every named or numbered storm gets some sort of after-the-fact scrutiny. Of course, Sandy is a special case, having affected so many people and so much property. This is a beefy report touching lots of bases.
The Weather Service and Hurricane Center did a good job–not good enough. There were weak points. That’s me speaking, though the report acknowledged them too.
I was on-the-air at FoxCT for Sandy. We used lots of NWS/NHC raw data and forecast products. A huge part of my job was assimilating the immense treasure trove of data available. Some of what we used was so esoteric, co-workers didn’t know it existed!
If there’s ever been a time my years of experience and nerdy curiosity came in handy, it was during Sandy.
Once Sandy moved north of Cape Hatteras the National Hurricane Center passed off much of its responsibilities to local forecast offices. That was a big mistake which served to confuse more than inform.
I said it then. Even worse, I’d said it before, having complained loudly and traded emails with the Hurricane Center’s director Ed Rappaport after Hurricane Noel received the same pass-off in 2007.
This Hurricane Center policy will be changed going forward. It’s about time!
For future storms like Sandy, NHC should be the principal point of contact responsible for the event, including delivery of a consistent suite of products and a unified communications protocol within NOAA, to key NOAA federal partners, and the media. NOAA/NWS websites should consistently reflect all watch/warning/advisories on websites, regardless of organizational structure or office/center responsibility. Web page design should ensure the most important message is quickly evident.
The are other recommendations, including a some having to do with coastal flooding and the current lack of definitive storm impacts. Giving a tidal flooding range in feet is worthless to most people. More important would be to say, “Lower Manhattan will be under water,” or similar specifics.
The truth is most non-professionals need a trusted voice. There’s too much for you to wade through.
I hope I was your trusted voice, leading you in the right direction. If you were watching us on FoxCT you weathered the storm without any big surprises. It goes without saying I will miss being that voice for you in the future.
The NWS assessment and its findings and recommendations should help all of us do better next time. There will be a next time.