Sandy prompts changes to hurricane warnings
Hurricane Sandy brought waves of destruction to the Mid-Atlantic states in October, and it also brought a firestorm of controversy to the National Hurricane Center over the agency's decision to not issue hurricane warnings for locations north of the North Carolina coast. The NHC made this decision because the storm was evolving from a hurricane to a "post-tropical cyclone", and instead deferred to the National Weather Service to issue a number of warnings and advisories for the hardest-hit areas. However, most in the weather and emergency-management communities agree that hurricane warnings would have better communicated the seriousness of the storm, and officials from the NHC now agree that they made a mistake in getting caught up more in the technical aspects of the storms and their warning policies, versus looking at the big picture.
Beginning next year, the NHC will have more flexibility in issuing warnings and advisories for tropical systems, and issued a new definition of a hurricane warning today:
An announcement that sustained winds of 74 mph or higher are expected somewhere within the specified area in association with a tropical, sub-tropical, or post-tropical cyclone. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds. The warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water or a combination of dangerously high water and waves continue, even though winds may be less than hurricane force.
The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season officially ended last Friday, with a total of 19 tropical storms and hurricanes last year. Hurricane Sandy killed 253 people in seven countries and preliminary damage totals for the U.S. have been estimated at around $65.6 billion, which would make it the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history.