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Barry designated level 2 on AccuWeather RealImpact Scale

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
July 14, 2019, 4:11:03 PM EDT

With Barry inundating the lower Mississippi Valley, this is the first time AccuWeather forecasters are utilizing the new AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale (AccuWeather RI) for Hurricanes.

In comparison to the Saffir-Simpson scale, which has been used by meteorologists for decades and classifies storms by wind speed only, the AccuWeather RI is based on a broad range of important factors. The scale covers not only wind speed, but flooding rain, storm surge, and economic damage and loss.

"If you think back to Florence last year, it was a menacing storm, not because of the wind as much as the inundation of heavy rain. Meanwhile, we have other storms, for example Hurricane Ike back in 2008, vicious wind all the way to the Ohio Valley, but the rain was not as much of an issue with that storm," AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Geoffrey Cornish told network viewers.

RI v. SS

The AccuWeather RI categorizes hurricanes and tropical storms on a six-point scale. Similar to the Saffir-Simpson scale, the AccuWeather RI uses the 1 to 5 rating, but also includes an additional rating of “Less than 1.” The “Less than 1” score provides insight on tropical storms that don’t rise to a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale but may still cause substantial destruction, injury or loss of life.

"When we look at the quantification of these different threats here and the level or risk associated with them, we can see, for example, an AccuWeather RI Scale of 2 would signify a storm with either moderate flooding or significant damage to small buildings because of wind, or possibly both of these,” Cornish explained.

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Barry threatens lower Mississippi Valley with significant flooding, isolated tornadoes into Monday

The scale takes into account numerous factors when rating the storm, not only wind. A hurricane can be rated a 3 with widespread flooding, major coastal inundation, or building and tree damage, or with a combination of these various impacts.

“As we get deeper into the season, hopefully we’re not exactly seeing 3s, 4s or 5s, but this will at least give people a peace of mind of what to expect with a tropical disturbance," AccuWeather Broadcast Meteorologist Brittany Boyer explained.

Barry made landfall in central Louisiana on Saturday morning as a Category 1 hurricane based on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

AccuWeather has predicted that Barry will be an AccuWeather RI level 2 due to life-threatening flooding expected to occur over a large swath. Widespread rainfall amounts of 10-18 inches and an AccuWeather StormMax of 24 inches will inundate portions of the Gulf states.

AccuWeather RI level 2

As a result of the broader range of factors, the new scale will communicate a more comprehensive representation of the potential impact of a storm on lives and livelihoods. The scale is designed to provide practical and critical information that people can use to evaluate the threat posed by a hurricane or tropical storm and take the appropriate steps to stay safe and protect property.

AccuWeather introduced the innovative scale at the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, on Jan. 9, 2019.

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