Changes for the 2017 hurricane season

Each year meteorologists at the national hurricane center work to improve hurricane forecasts and better inform people in the path of these deadly storms.

Last year Hurricane Matthew was the strongest and costliest hurricane to form in the Atlantic Ocean. The storm moved just offshore of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina before making landfall near McClellanville. There are lessons to be learned from Matthew.

Former Director of the National Hurricane Center Dr. Rick Knabb says “Matthew is another in a long line of systems that had major impacts mainly due to water at the coast and inland without being a major hurricane at landfall on our wind scale. So it is showing us again that we do not want to focus on the category. And the path that Matthew took shows focusing on the track, exactly where landfall is going to occur isn’t going to help us either.”

Lessons learned from Matthew will help us better prepare for storms in the future, just like lessons from storms years ago have led to changes in policy this year. The National Hurricane Center has announced two changes that take effect this hurricane season.

First, the National Weather Service is going fully operational in 2017 with a new storm surge warning and a storm surge watch. This is separate from and in addition to the hurricane watch and warning, because the hurricane force winds and the storm surge don’t always occur at the same place or at the same time.

In 2008 Hurricane Ike hit Texas, but a storm surge caused damage in Florida, which was not under a hurricane warning. A storm surge warning would have alerted people to the danger, even though the hurricane was hundreds of miles away.

Also this year, tropical advisories can be issued before a storm has formed. In the past we have not been able to issue the tropical storm watch or warning, or hurricane watch if it wasn’t yet a depression or storm. But when that is happening right off the coast that means the watch or warning is too late.

This will get watch and warning information out a little bit sooner so people have more time to prepare. Being better prepared will reduce property damage and save lives.

The best way to prepare for a hurricane is to do it now, before a storm threatens us. Develop a personal hurricane plan. If you are going to evacuate, know where you are going now. If you are going to ride out the storm, make sure your hurricane survival kit is fresh and up to date.