Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sandy: Storm rages on

Government's Sandy review team gets one biting review.

Sandy: Storm rages on


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced today it had assembled a team to assess how the National Weather Service performed during Sandy.

Somehow, we don't think the announcement is going to end the dust-ups over how the storm forecasts were handled -- and how the government has gone about evaluating its performance.All

In a blog item, Mike Smith, an executive at Accu-Weather, strongly criticized the makeup of the NOAA panel. Smith is more than a disinterested party.

Smith originally had been named to co-lead the assessment, but NOAA later stated that the Smith team was part of a "draft" proposal and never finalized.

This time around, NOAA said that it chose members from several government agencies, including the weather service, but excluded meteorologists who were involved in forecasting Sandy.

"This allows for an impartial and unbiased review," NOAA said.

"The idea that all government employees allows for an 'impartial and unbiased' review is ridiculous," Smith wrote.

Smith said he was disturbed that the team leader was a scientist with NOAA's fisheries service.

"The major issues surrounding Sandy are meteorological," Smith said, because the critical question to answer is: "Was Sandy a hurricane at landfall?"


A step back: As we've mentioned, by almost any standard, Sandy was a forecasting triumph for NOAA's National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service's field offices, including Mount Holly.

Warnings were issued well in advance, and the potential impacts were clearly stated.

However a decision was made to drop "tropical-storm" and "hurricane" warnings from the mid-Atlantic region on north as the storm tracked up the coast.

That's because technically, the storm was forecast to interact with a strong system moving eastward across land and transform into a hybrid "post-tropical cyclone."

The distinction was a potentially significant one for property owners with "hurricane deductibles" in their insurance policies. A hurricane designation would mean more out-of-pocket expenses.

Smith's boss, Joel Myers, and Bryan Norcross of the Weather Channel were among those who strongly criticized the decision to drop the tropical-storm terminology.

They held that  the distinction was unnecessary and confusing, and that in the court of common sense a storm with hurricane-force winds merited a "hurricane" warning.

Last week, Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center, and one of the nation's most-respected tropical storm specialists, essentially agreed.

The NOAA team is scheduled to begin work Jan. 6.

Inquirer Weather Columnist
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About this blog

Everyone talks about the weather, and here we write about it.

When we’re around and conditions warrant, we’ll keep you updated about what’s coming, but we will do our best always to discuss weather and climate developments in context and remind you that nothing in the atmosphere happens in a vacuum.

Tony Wood has been writing about the atmosphere for The Inquirer for 26 years.

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Tony Wood Inquirer Weather Columnist
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