NHC to Revise Warnings After Sandy

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By Quincy Vagell on December 5, 2012, 2:25pm Last modified: December 10, 2012, 9:53am

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A satellite image of Hurricane Sandy on October 28th, 2012.

Much debate followed the decision of the National Hurricane Center (NHC) to not issue Tropical Storm or Hurricane advisories across the Northeast for Hurricane Sandy.

Ahead of Hurricane Sandy, the NHC made it clear that no Tropical Storm or Hurricane watches or warnings would be issued north of North Carolina. Their reasoning was that Hurricane Sandy was forecast to transition from a tropical system (Hurricane) to a non-tropical nor'easter-type storm before landfall. 

This decision caused a lot of confusion and at one point New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave the impression that Sandy would not be a severe storm for the area since it would no longer be a hurricane. In the end, the storm caused the most widespread damage that New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and coastal Connecticut has seen in generations. Many local meteorologists, including Gil Simmons, disagreed with the NHC's decision.

The NHC initially defended their position, but in recent statements made to Accuweather.com, they have changed their position:

"...the way we handled [Sandy] was not right, but we're fixing it," Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer for the NHC said.

The new advisory definition will be expanded, so that hybrid-type storms in the future that may still cause hurricane conditions will receive Tropical Storm and Hurricane watches and warnings. Also, Accuweather.com reports that the NHC will eventually make clearer differentiation between wind and storm surge hazards.

"We realize this was not satisfactory and we want to make it better for next year," Landsea said.

Additional reading:
"NHC Modifies Hurricane Warning Definition in Wake of Sandy" by Accuweather
"Why Are There No Hurricane Warnings?" by Quincy Vagell
"Was Sandy a Hurricane for Connecticut?" by Quincy Vagell

Personal thoughts:
It is my opinion that the NHC made a poor decision to not issue Hurricane Warnings for portions of the mid-Atlantic and New England coastline, including New York City. Evacuations in a hard hit city like New York were not made until last minute. Even then, the evacuations that were mandatory did not reflect those that would be needed for such a strong storm like Hurricane Sandy.
My other problem is that the storm WAS a hurricane as it was impacting the area. In fact, the NHC did not official "demote" the storm to a post-tropical system until one hour before landfall in New Jersey. By that point, most of the damage from the storm had already been done. The storm was classified as a hurricane as hurricane-force winds were hitting coastal Connecticut and Long Island.

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Quincy Vagell

Town: Marlborough, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

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