February 2013

Last fall, Hurricane Sandy caused devastating damage to the eastern seaboard – yet the National Hurricane Center did not issue any sort of hurricane warning to the people north of North Carolina.  It is not that the National Hurricane Center was negligent in any way, it is just that by the time Sandy reached the more northern coastlines, Sandy’s maximum sustained winds had died down below the 74 mile per hour threshold in order to be considered a hurricane.  Since Sandy was no longer a hurricane, the storm did not qualify under the then existing standards to issue a hurricane warning to those in the path of the storm.  Clearly, even though the storm did not officially qualify as a hurricane and was “only” a tropical storm upon landfall, Sandy still brought catastrophic damage and caused billions of dollars of destroyed property.

The National Hurricane Center is working to fix this problem.  The Center has now added the following phrase to its definition of Hurricane Warning – “Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.”  Hopefully this expanded definition will better allow the National Hurricane Center to better warn those people in harm’s way and to help mitigate the catastrophic property losses arising out of such storms – hurricane or not.