WRUF Weather

Hurricane Week: Lessons from Sandy

Satellite view of Hurricane Sandy as the storm was becoming “post-tropical” before landfall (courtesy of NASA).

The storm that hit the Jersey Shore in late October of 2012 was given so many names.  Frankenstorm.  The Storm of the Century.  Superstorm Sandy.  The view from space was that of a classic hurricane, but to officials at the National Hurricane Center it was not just a hurricane.  Sandy was officially “post-tropical” at landfall, meaning it had lost its typical warm water characteristics.   Even still, it claimed 285 lives and caused an estimated $75 billion in damage across more than 24 states.  Similar to Katrina, Sandy was a storm where policies and procedures, both pre and post-storm, were scrutinized heavily by many law-makers and the media.  The National Hurricane Center announced earlier this spring some changes to their products that will begin with the 2013 season.

Previous policies from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) dictated a discontinuation of hurricane watches and warnings when the cyclone was predicted to become “post tropical” prior to landfall.  Now, the hurricane center will consider the threat to life and property a “hybrid” storm such as Sandy could still cause, even after it goes through a metamorphosis of sorts.  Forecasters may choose to continue the current advisory products or even issue new ones where they feel hurricane-force conditions may occur.

Sandy’s storm surge was another example of how unique the water rise can be for every storm.  The highest waves were recorded nearly 100 miles from where the center of the storm came ashore, flooding hundreds of homes and businesses in lower Manhattan and Long Island.  And this was exactly the forecast from many local weather service offices. According to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, “mitigation money from the 2004 and 2005 seasons in Florida has been funding research that is already improving storm surge forecasts.”

Prototype of the new Storm Surge Forecast Map to be used by the National Hurricane Center this season.

The National Hurricane Center plans to roll out a new storm surge forecast graphic this season that will show street-level mapping of the projected water rise.  This will be supplemented by a storm surge watch or warning product by 2015, according to NHC Director Knabb.  The changes made this year are all part of a larger effort from NOAA to continue improving the communication of the wide-ranging threats tropical cyclones can pose to the life and property.

WRUF will dive into the some of these threats that are real to North-Central Floridians tomorrow and we might even bust a few myths.  Follow @WRUFWeather on Twitter for constant updates all season long, or tune to WRUF-TV (Cox Channel 6 or 10.1) for tropical weather updates at 20 past the hour.


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