AMS 2013: Hurricane Sandy Town Hall highlights

Here’s a quick post in between sessions from the floor of this week’s 2013 AMS Annual extravaganza in Austin, TX.

Last night’s Hurricane Sandy Town Hall meeting was a full house and ran overtime as you might expect.

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Images: Paul Huttner – MPR News

A host of great presenters dissected the event…from the NHC’s highly successful forecast tracks up to a week in advance generated by the European Model… to some possible “messaging failures” as the NHC dropped hurricane warnings as Sandy became “post tropical” near landfall.

Listening to just a few of the 3,000 experts here at AMS…it’s amazing how many brilliant minds have dedicated entire careers to enhancing our understanding of weather. It’s immensely humbling to be a (very) small part of this incredible profession we call “meteorology.”

Here are a few quick notes from the session. My apologies for the lack of analysis….I have to be back in session at 1:30pm and giving my little talk on the Duluth Flood of 2012 later this afternoon.

Notes from Hurricane Sandy Town Hall:

Louis Ucellini NOAA

-Sandy’s official NHC 5-Day forecast was remarkably accurate.

-Sandy was the 1st hurricane to have “blizzard warnings” attached!

-Sandy’s peak storm surge coincided with high tide…increasing destructive surge to 11 feet in NYC area as she accelerated and came ashore at high tide.

-The storm produced the “surge of record” for Long Island, NYC and New Jersey.

-Sandy’s storm surge was under forecast by 3 feet.

-The Euro model was far superior on Sandy’s track beyond 84 hours.

-Sandy produced the first coordinated launch of weather balloons at non routine times of 06Z and 18Z in U.S. history.

-The GFS was the best performing model overall during the 2012 Hurricane Season. The 2 worst storms for the GFS in 2012 were Isaac & Sandy…both made landfall in the USA.

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Rick Knabb – Director NHC

-NHC favored European (ECMWF) forecast track early on for Sandy over GFS.

-NOAA is very aware…and seems defensive about European models success over GFS (my observation…not a quote from Rick)

-NHC is wrestling with decision to drop hurricane warnings and transition to “post tropical” status for Sandy. (Again, my observation from talk)

-NHC working on proposal for future to keep hurricane warnings up when needed.

Melvyn Shapiro, NCAR

-Sandy was a remarkable “hybrid” system that combined both tropical and mid-latitude characteristics.

-Colder air and jet energy fed into Sandy just before landfall…causing a brief intensification at landfall.

-Sandy maintained a narrow “warm core” tropical center up to landfall as high as 200mb …


Bryan Norcorss -The Weather Channel

-TWC was focused on clear and consistent “messaging” during Sandy

-So many local warnings….TWC came up with teir own descriptions like “high wind warnings” and “flood warnings” to cover variety of local NWS warning types.

-Norcross was stunned to have just finished NBC Nightly News with Brian Willimas…then hear NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s statement indicating to New Yorkers that the storm did not appear to pose such a high threat due to cancellation of “Hurricane Warnings.”

My take in discussions with Norcross….NWS did an excellent job with an accurate life-saving forecast for Sandy…but made serious “messaging errors” by dropping hurricane warnings at landfall.

Jason Samenow Capital Weather Gang

-Social media was an extremely effective tool during Sandy

-Tweets as far as 7-8 days out highlighted potential treat from Euro forecast track

-Tweets during the storm provided real time photos and accounts traditional news media could not gather due to storm conditions

-There were some erroneous tweets…like 3 feet of water on NYSE floor that had to be weeded out

I’d be interested to know what you think as Updraft readers.

How well do you think NHC handled Sandy’s forecast track & early alerting?

Should they have kept “hurricane warnings” up longer?

As a weather consumer, what kind of “weather messaging” works best for you?

Thanks for any feedback!