December 6, 2012

Time For A New Hurricane Scale

The false sense of security that us Americans have grown around and have been government induced to follow in regards to Hurricanes. For many years now Americans have been given the Saffir-Simpson scale to follow in how strong a hurricanes impacts will be, this scale takes two things into consideration and that is storm surge and wind speeds, this is to general of an approach to giving warnings out to the public in my opinion and here is why.

First, in this last example with Hurricane Sandy or Super Storm Sandy whichever you want to call it the National Hurricane Center classified it as a CAT 1 Hurricane prior to making landfall however because it was interacting with another non-tropical feature it was not given proper warnings for the coastline of New York and New Jersey which suffered the right front quadrant of the hurricane and because our government runs on clock work that if a high wind warning is issued vice a hurricane warning that the weather will be completely different, this is why New York City in my point of view got caught off guard from this from the Governor to the Mayor of New York in that the Hurricane Center did not issue Hurricane Warnings for them but high wind warnings which created massive chaos in a very large city.

So in the above example it is easier to say now that it has happened already but by not measuring hurricanes based on their strength and assigning them a CAT number but just simply breaking the hurricane down into the four quadrants and assigning a Threat Level to each side of the storm by far would be so much better allowing people to prepare knowing that they are about to be hit by the right front quadrant or the “Extreme Danger Side” this would awaking more people to understand and heed warnings than getting lazy and too comfortable with the saying oh it can’t happen to me.  Also another approach that could be given to these storms and how it can help save more American lives now that we have more sophisticated weather models that can handle storm tracks further in advance why not start providing the public with more valuable information such as webinars breaking down the storm days in advance so that people can watch and learn what is going on with the storm and what kind of impacts can be felt and showing them scenarios that could happen with the storm so that they see everything from a complete perspective and fully understand what is going on or what may be occurring soon, in my point of view if we educate more in advance it would be a huge benefit to the American people.

The next example I use is with Hurricane Katrina and how the storm surge caught so many people off guard, Katrina spun in the Gulf of Mexico and made it to CAT 5 strength while sitting in the Gulf for a few days with very little movement. However once the storm started moving towards the coast it became a CAT 3 which if we look at the scale gives us standards for a CAT 3 storm and it says storm surge for a set value, however when Katrina made landfall in Mississippi the storm surge that hit Mississippi was well over CAT 3 size surge so again the scale conflicts itself. The scale does not take things into consideration such as the storm sitting over open ocean waters for days un disturbed will create larger waves even if it’s a smaller storm. These are things that need to be evaluated by the Hurricane Center really seriously as we move forward in time as the scale gives many people false sense of security because when people were listening to the news along the Mississippi Gulf Coast I am sure they were being told to prepare for a CAT 3 storm, but they were not told about the CAT 5 impacts it would have in the form of storm surge which could have very well if told better to the public had allowed more people to evacuate out of the knowing of the storm surge being higher than a CAT 3. So once again if we were just to tell the people in the right front quadrant of this storm that they were going to be in the “Extreme Danger Side” they would take it more seriously because each storm has its own reputation and sometimes you will get a CAT 1 storm that can create CAT 3 impacts or a CAT 3 storm that moves fast and doesn’t lead to much impacts because of the short period of time it interacts with an area.

These are just two examples of where I think if we have a better Advance Education and a better scale in place things could be better presented to the American people for their understanding. Another thing that would help to make the new warning system better presentable is to rely on the buoy data to provide us with wave heights and swell heights which can give us a better understanding of what type of waves will make landfall than just basing it off the scale that states a CAT 1 has this storm surge.

I think if we combine these items together we can have a better advance warning system in place to help save lives and public interest. First, take the storm and bi-sect it into quads preparing each region for the quadrant that they will be hit by and what to expect which we do now but we could enhance that even further with more video webinars, secondly provide more accurate waves and surge heights based on actual data arriving from the buoys off the coast that we have, third assessing the size of the city that the storm is about to hit and emphasizing that a hurricane is a hurricane and damage will be done, a fourth thing is to provide more in depth education on hurricanes to the public.

So maybe this could be what a new storm warning looks like to the public.

Hurricane Name/ Wind Speeds at 10meters/ Larger cities maybe include higher up winds for the high rise buildings./ Provide a Storm Surge condition based on current buoy reports/

And at know time make mention of a CAT as the public will be better informed with this type of warning format I believe in my opinion.

In summary I think it is time for us to visit the Saffir-Simpson scale and give it an update that can better prepare our ever changing society to be prepared for future storms and what impacts they may bring to their region.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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