At issue was the non-traditional way the NWS shared forecast information in advance of the storm’s landfall. Because of the unique meteorological characteristics of Sandy -- a hurricane that was merging with a nor’easter -- prior to landfall, the National Weather Service chose not to issue standard hurricane watches and warnings. Instead, a phalanx of non-tropical “high wind warnings”, “coastal flood warnings”, and various local statements were issued by the decentralized regional NWS offices. This decision contrasted with the run up to Hurricane Irene, when the top-down National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued official hurricane warnings from North Carolina to Massachusetts.
Bryan Norcross, the Weather Channel’s hurricane expert, was sharply critical of the decision not to issue hurricane watches and warnings, asserting NHC’s adherence to “arcane and inflexible rules” compromised clear, effective communication.
“When all hell is breaking loose, sometimes you’ve got to break a few rules to do the right thing,” Norcross blogged shortly after the decision.
Of particular concern to Norcross were Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks at a news conference two days before Sandy’s landfall, about the time hurricane watches are typically issued for approaching storms. At the time, Bloomberg downplayed Sandy’s risk.
“Although we’re expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or hurricane-type surge,” Bloomberg said. “With this storm, we’ll likely see a slow pileup of water rather than a sudden surge, which is what you would expect with a hurricane, and which we saw with Irene 14 months ago. So it will be less dangerous.”
Norcross called Bloomberg’s remarks “incomprehensibly inexplicable” leaving him to wonder if “the missing Hurricane Watch sent the Mayor off-kilter.”
NHC director Rick Knabb admitted closely following procedure may have resulted in confusing messages.
You can read the entire posting here.
On a personal note, it is kind of interesting watching all of this unfold around me.