As Superstorm Sandy closed in on the Northeast coastline last October, the monstrous cyclone was in a state of flux, transforming from a hurricane into beastly hybrid storm: part tropical, part temperate. Based on Sandy’s change in form, the National Hurricane Center decided it would not issue hurricane warnings for the Northeast coast. The storm was “post-tropical” it determined.
That decision caused an uproar, with critics charging the lack of warnings sent the wrong message, effectively downplaying the seriousness of the storm – when it was holding its own and represented a clear and present danger.
Today, the National Weather Service announced forecasters will have the option to issue hurricane warnings in a future Sandy-like scenario.
“…the definitions of hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings will be broadened to allow these 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,” the National Weather Service said in statement.
The policy takes effect June 1, the beginning of hurricane season.
“Our forecasters now have more flexibility to effectively communicate the threat posed by transitioning tropical systems,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service. “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.”
The policy change was proposed during NOAA’s hurricane meeting in November, and was vetted by the National Weather Service in the meteorological and emergency management communities in subsequent months.
“This change is also supported by preliminary findings from NOAA’s service assessment on Sandy, which will be released in May,” the National Weather Service said in its statement.
The revised policy, in full, for issuing hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings for “post tropical” weather systems can be found on the National Hurricane Center website. It includes a sample advisory for a hypothetical post-tropical storm “Mandy”, headlined by these statements:
...MANDY LOSES TROPICAL CHARACTERISTICS BUT HURRICANE WARNINGS REMAIN IN EFFECT... ...MANDY EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE AND HURRICANE-FORCE WINDS TO THE COAST THIS AFTERNOON...