Hurricane Questions

After the loss of life, and confusion, following Hurricane Charley, an interesting op-ed piece was written by Bryan Norcross, Chief Meteorologist from WFOR in Miami. You can read it here now, or click the ‘continue’ link at the end of this posting.

Norcross makes some interesting points, many of which I agree with.

Though we make our own forecasts at the TV station, we respect the Weather Service’s watches and warnings (though there are times I mention them, followed by what I think will actually happen).

The bigger problem occurs when watches and warnings are contradictory. Uncoordinated watches, warnings and statements for hurricanes, severe storms… even winter weather, is a continuing weakness of The Weather Service. All hurricane watches, warnings and statements should come from one place – period.

This certainly led to the disservice done to the people for Florida.

When local offices speak, they address problems from their own perspective, which is not necessarily the public’s. And, the public and media are probably concentrating their attention on the Storm Prediction Center (Whose idea was it to change this from the much more meaningful Hurricane Center?), which is where most people would expect to find hurricane info.

I work in Connecticut, a small state served by three NWS offices. Their statements often mislead the public because each only refers to the region for which they forecast.

Here’s an example. If Boston says a watch has been canceled for Connecticut, they mean their counties. No one in Connecticut could read a statement like that and understand that half the state is still under a watch.

During the winter, Litchfield County, our ‘snowbelt,’ might be under a lesser category of alert because the Albany office uses somewhat different criteria than the New York or Boston offices. When I post a map which shows a Winter Weather Advisory for Litchfield while there’s a Winter Storm Warning for our other counties (even though Litchfield has the more wintry forecast) it does nothing but confuse.

I have been to NWS ‘customer’ conferences in Washington, and have tried to sensitize them to this confusion. As you see – no change.

Continue reading “Hurricane Questions”

More Charley

It must have been a shock for people on the West Coast of Florida to wake up this morning and find that Charley was going to hit the coast a little farther south than expected. Instead of Tampa Bay, the storm headed to Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda and Fort Myers.

As soon as I woke up this morning I switched on the computer and started to look at the radar, then surface observations, then the computer models.

I bet this kind of weather ‘spikes’ the ratings at The Weather Channel. Personally, I can’t watch. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I like a lot more detail. This is not to take away what they’ve accomplished as far as making a name for themselves. I’m just not their target.

As was the case last night, the Weather Service NEXRADs did an fantastic job in displaying this storm. The eye was tight and circular – the sign of a strong hurricane.

As I’m typing this, I’m looking at the Tampa radar, still seeing the eye of the storm as it approaches Orlando. That it still has a discernible eye this late in the game surprises me.

Now it heads this way. Even though it won’t be a hurricane there might be enough storm left to worry about for Sunday. You know what – even if there isn’t, I’ll worry anyway. That’s what I do.