Over the past few years, members of the First Warning Weather Team have been attending the National Tropical Weather Conference on South Padre Island. Three days of hearing from the best tropical weather scientists the country has to offer is extremely intriguing, and educational. Topics range from how information learned from past hurricanes can pertain to today’s systems and their tendencies, to the latest developments the National Hurricane Center is working on. The NHC is always trying to develop new products to keep you and I as informed as possible when a tropical system is on the way. It’s all about research, and saving lives.
Two years ago there were rumblings that a few NHC scientists were working on a new product that can help predict storm surge (how far and deep water will rush inland from the coast). At the time it was in it’s infant stages. Last year, those rumblings turned into test runs and beta graphics. Now, about 6 months later, we have word from the NHC, this product will be available to the public starting in 2015! Here is the press release:
National Hurricane Center To Issue Storm Surge
Watch And Warning Graphic
Beginning with the 2015 hurricane season, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) will offer an
experimental storm surge watch/warning graphic to highlight those areas along the Gulf and
Atlantic coasts of the United States that have a significant risk of life-threatening inundation by
storm surge from a tropical cyclone.
The new graphic is designed to introduce the concept of a watch or warning specific to the storm
surge hazard. Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical cyclone,
and it can occur at different times and at different locations from a storm’s hazardous winds. In
addition, while most coastal residents can remain in their homes and be safe from a tropical
cyclone’s winds, evacuations are generally needed to keep people safe from storm surge. Having
separate warnings for these two hazards should provide emergency managers, the media, and
the general public better guidance on the hazards they face when tropical cyclones threaten.
Here is an example of the new graphic, which will be available on the NHC website
NHC and NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) Forecast Offices will determine the area most
at risk from life-threatening surge through a collaborative process. In addition to the graphic, the
highlighted areas will be mentioned in Hurricane Local Statements issued by NWS Forecast
Offices in the affected areas and in the Hazards section of the NHC Public Advisory.
Here is a sample surge statement from the Hazards section of a Public Advisory:
HAZARDS AFFECTING LAND
STORM SURGE…The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally
dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. There
is a danger of life-threatening inundation during the next 36 hours along the North Carolina coast
from Cape Fear to Duck…including the Outer Banks, the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and
along adjacent rivers and estuaries. For a depiction of areas at risk, see the new National
Weather Service experimental Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic. This is a life-threatening
situation. Persons located within the warning areas should take all necessary actions to protect
life and property from rising water and the potential for other dangerous conditions. Promptly
follow evacuation and other instructions from local officials.
The graphic will be experimental for at least two years, during which time comments from users
will be solicited and considered. Only the graphic itself will be available during the experimental
period; the underlying raw data, including shape-files, will not be disseminated.
The new watch/warning graphic complements the experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding
Map, which debuted during 2014’s Hurricane Arthur. The Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map
shows the geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and how high
above ground the water could potentially reach in those areas, based on the latest official NHC
forecast and its likely errors.
As part of a phased implementation, NHC plans to consolidate the dissemination of wind and
surge watches and warnings in 2016. This new process will merge inland and coastal warning
information for both threats into a single message. After incorporating both user and partner input,
the new storm surge warning system is expected to become fully operational in 2017.
-NHC Storm Surge resources website http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge/resources.php