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.