When Sandy made landfall on the Jersey Shore, no hurricane watches or warnings had been issued. And, as the Atlantic Hurricane Season officially ends this week, the question remains as to why.
Sandy roared ashore with a vengeance causing catastrophic destruction. And although the superstorm was always forecast to be powerful, initially that message, obviously, did not resonate.
"Although we're expecting a large surge of water, it is not expected to be a tropical storm or hurricane-type surge."
Was it because no hurricane watches and warnings were issued?
Sandy was forecast to transition from a hurricane to something post tropical before making landfall.
"The big challenge with Sandy was not just the usual challenge of forecasting where it's going to go and how strong its going to be we also had the added challenge of forecasting what kind of system was sandy going to be."
As a result, the National Hurricane Center decided to leave all warnings to the local National Weather Service offices.
"It would have been pretty bad to put up the hurricane warning and everyone starts preparing to evacuate and in the middle of the event the warnings come down so we would not have wanted to do that.
National Hurricane Center Director, Dr. Rick Knabb, says the other two options were not really options: either to continue to issuing watches and warnings even with a post tropical Sandy, or keep it tropical when it wasn't.
"But we would have risked breaking the dissemination system of our products and our warnings that was a risk we weren't too keen on taking, so Sandy just posed a scenario that no matter what we were going to do it was going to have the potential for confusing people."
But what they did decide to do caused a storm of its own.
"One, words matter and while there were a lot of watches and warnings issued the terms hurricane watch and hurricane warning send a strong message. Two, Sandy not being a hurricane that last hour before landfall was based on a meteorological technicality and actually it still right up through landfall had what meteorologists call a warm core which is a fundamental characteristic of tropical cyclones. Before that last hour Sandy was producing hurricane force wind gusts on land and extreme storm surge heights while it was still officially a hurricane."
But what most agree on is that there are some problems with the current protocol - that needs to be looked at and potentially changed.
"We also realized in Sandy that there are some inflexibilities in the Weather Service warning and product dissemination system that we could change for next time and we are going to start working on that right here at the beginning of the off season."
Most recent estimates indicate damage totaling at least 71 billion dollars along the east coast from Sandy. More than 100 people died.
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