NWS Broadens Hurricane Warning Definition

April 8, 2013; 8:30 PM ET
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Post-tropical cylcone Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012 at 8:00 p.m., along the coast of southern New Jersey. Image/NASA

The National Weather Service announced April 4 that, starting June 1, the definitions of hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings will be broadened.

The new changes will allow watches and warnings to be issued or remain in effect after a tropical cyclone becomes post-tropical, when such a storm poses a significant threat to life and property.

In addition, the National Hurricane Center will be permitted to issue advisories during the post-tropical stage.

The policy changes were motivated by the special challenges posed by Hurricane Sandy, which was forecast to evolve from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone prior to reaching the New Jersey coast.

The NHC did not issue hurricane advisories north of North Carolina due to the nature of the changing storm.

Fearing a public misunderstanding of the severity of Sandy's impacts, AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers urged the NHC to reverse the decision before Sandy made landfall.

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The NHC believes that the policy changes will prevent a similar situation in the future.

"Our forecasters now have more flexibility to effectively communicate the threat posed by transitioning tropical systems," Louis W. Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Weather Service said.

"Sandy's forecast was remarkably accurate and under a similar situation in the future, forecasters will be able to choose the best option to underscore the urgency involved."

This policy change was first proposed during the NOAA Hurricane Meeting in November and has since been the focus of much discussion in the meteorological and emergency management communities, in forums such as the American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in January and the National Hurricane Conference in March.

This change is also supported by preliminary findings from NOAA's service assessment on Sandy, which will be released in May.

"I would like to thank everyone for their open and candid feedback on this proposal," Rick Knabb, Ph.D., director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center said.

"Keeping communities safe when a storm threatens is truly a team effort and this change reflects that collaboration."


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