Today's rush to judgment by MSM on new NHC proposed hurricane categorization

Hurricane Sandy on 10-29-12 – image: NOAA

This was quite a circus to watch today. I didn’t bite.

Early this afternoon, AccuWeather reported the National Hurricane Center had announced they were modifying the definition of hurricane warnings becuase of Hurricane Sandy. They made a big deal out of it. Turns out that wasn’t quite right, read on.

Following the criticism of the National Hurricane Center’s handling of Hurricane Sandy and the non-issuance of hurricane warnings north of North Carolina, it has been decided that the NHC will now have more flexibility in their policy regarding the issuance of advisories. Beginning in 2013, the NHC will have the flexibility to issue multiple advisories on post-tropical cyclones for landfalling systems or close bypassers.

According to the NHC, this required a revision of the Hurricane Warning definition.

“The main issue is: we want people to get ready for hurricane conditions, and that’s why we are changing the definition of hurricane warning to be a little more inclusive of other things than just a hurricane,” Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center, told

Playing follow the leader, The Weather Channel added a story that built upon the AccuWeather story. TWC wrote:

The National Hurricane Center confirmed Wednesday that changes to their system of issuing hurricane warnings will be altered prior to the start of the 2013 season. NOAA spokesperson Maureen O’Leary said changes to the warning system will be made, but said she was not able to comment further at the time.

A report issued at an annual NOAA hurricane meeting in Miami stated the NHC will now be able to issue a hurricane warning on a post-tropical cyclone.

But wait, not so fast! They haven’t actually made a rule change yet.

Seeing all the excitement, the In an emailed statement to many media outlets today, NOAA’s Chris Vaccaro indicated this change is not final but rather part of an ongoing process:

A proposal was raised during the NOAA Hurricane Conference last week for NWS to have the option to issue hurricane and tropical storm watches and warnings for post-tropical cyclones that threaten life and property.

This is one step in the process required before any proposed change to operational products becomes final. As part of our review of the 2012 hurricane season, including the Sandy service assessment, we will review all policies and changes through the existing and established process.

This sort of reporting is just about what we’d expect.

I think some new categorization is a good idea, because some storms are big on winds, some are big on rain, some are big on storm surge, and some are big on all three. Getting a handle on these to truly rate storm effects would be better. In this case, Sandy happened to just hit a place that isn’t used to hurricanes on a regular basis, and it wasn’t strong enough to rate hurricane strength, so hurricane warnings were not issued. The fact that it was NYC put a microscope on it. If hit Florida, it would have been just another storm.

CCM Mike Smith talks about the warning issue on WUWT.TV here:

You can see some of the MSM playing follow the leader below….

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john robertson
December 5, 2012 6:34 pm

Rather than give a clear description of the storm, as in the weather warnings we already have. The proposal is to add more verbiage?
Well its a tropical storm, quasi hurricane or another Sandy?
How about a Gore Event? Lots of wind and little substance.

December 5, 2012 6:57 pm

Anybody who wasn’t aware of the destructive potential of this storm as broadcast on radio and television and posted endlessly on the internet is an idiot. Forgive me if I’m short on empathy here, but COME ON!!

December 5, 2012 6:57 pm

The new warning should be “Winds High And Tidal Surge Up: Possibly Destructive Or Calamitous”. Of course known by its acronym.

Gunga Din
December 5, 2012 7:01 pm

I don’t live anywhere near NYC so I don’t know what kind of warnings were actually issued. But I know that here in the midwest we get warnings all the time of various kinds of severe weather threats as they approach.
I’m sure NYC recieved warnings.
Is the issue that the warnings came from the National Weather Service and not the National Hurricane Center?

Jim Cripwell
December 5, 2012 7:09 pm

“If hit Florida, it would have been just another storm.”
The reason a non-hurricane like Sandy was so deadly, was because of the presence of the Arctic front. I doubt any hurricane in Florida has ever encountered the Arctic front.

December 5, 2012 7:17 pm

Can’t really argue with the intention. Better than all the gloating over the stimulus to the gravy train, and ignoring the number of times similar events have occurred in the past.
Over here in NE Oz we have cyclone and severe weather “warning” and “watch”, with defined areas and time projections. When it gets to 24 hours out or thereabouts, local Disaster Management Committees kick in, with powers to requisition premises and vehicles, direct police etc. Regular civil administration is suspended.

December 5, 2012 7:19 pm

This article is not factually correct.
I respectfully request that its author retract the claim that Sandy was not “strong enough” to be a hurricane. I was MOST CERTAINLY strong enough to be a Hurricane. It made landfall with a minimum central pressure of 939 mb for crying out loud!! The debate was over whether the storm had “tropical characteristics”.
As someone who LIVES on Long Island, I can tell you that the conditions were DEFINITELY worse than other minimal hurricanes that have passed over my head at various points in my life. We had sustained winds of easily 65 mph ON LAND and just offshore (without friction to interfere) there were sustained winds to 80…and gusts over 90 mph were fairly common in central Long Island. That…is CLEARLY of Hurricane strength.
I repeat…Sandy was NOT “just another storm”…if a 939 mb non-tropical cyclone hits Florida, I assure you, it will cause a ton of problems just as it did in NYC. Particularly if it comes attached to FOURTEEN FOOT storm surges, very VERY widespread 75 mph wind gusts and isolated severe microbursts and microvortices in the feeder bands. The statements made by the author on the nature of Sandy demonstrate deep ignorance and must be corrected.
Thank you.

December 5, 2012 7:25 pm

Non-climate related, but this reminds of how the Macquarie Dictionary in Australia redefined the definition of the word ‘misogyny’ in the wake of the Australian Prime Minister’s tirade against the Opposition Leader.

December 5, 2012 7:29 pm

Perhaps a “FETCH” warning system too. No?

Gunga Din
December 5, 2012 7:32 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm
Since you live there, what kind of warnings actually were issued and by whom?
I’m not asking this to be argumentative, but if a hurricane warning had been issued, what practical difference would it have made?

Peter Dunford
December 5, 2012 7:49 pm

If you missed all the hurricane / megastorm / frankenstorm media reports I don’t see how you would have been aware of a hurricane warning either.

Paul Coppin
December 5, 2012 7:52 pm

Is the issue that the warnings came from the National Weather Service and not the National Hurricane Center?
Yes. The NHC has a broad mandate to issue warnings across regions, whereas the NWS has a locally distributed responsibility. There was discussion in the storm discussions being issued by the NHC about how they were holding up their categorization levels specifically so that they could issues warnings beyond past the point where the NHC would hand off the warning responsibility to the NWS, which then would fragment the warnings into local ones. I echo the comment above about there being no need to change the warning system – Given the media coverage and the available analysis nobody had an excuse for not seeing this coming. We watched the damned thing develop for days.
And Mr. Souders, However you want to believe, Sandy was not a hurricane at landfall. Central pressure is not a unique criterion for hurricane categorization. Doesn’t even have to have an eye. There are many storms that come and go with low central pressures that are not hurricanes.
What Sandy was, was a broad multi-low pressure system that generated a severe storm surge on an area not structured to handle one.

December 5, 2012 8:07 pm

Matthew Souders
Hurricanes are not defined by central pressure, and 65 mph winds do not fall into the Hurricane category. Additionally, wind gusts over 74 mph may be in the correct realm… but Maximum Sustained Winds are where the definition is at.

Maximum Sustained Surface Wind. When applied to a particular weather system, refers to the highest one-minute average wind (at an elevation of 10 meters with an unobstructed exposure) associated with that weather system at a particular point in time.

Reply to  GeoLurking
December 5, 2012 9:01 pm

Believe it or not folks…I’m not an idiot. I am also a meteorologist, so please do not assume I fail to know what a hurricane is.
I dare you…go look up any hurricane in the best track data set that hit land and had sustained winds at landfall of less than 85 mph and produced ANY hurricane force sustained winds at an ASOS or AWOS cite. Good luck, because it don’t exist, pals. Hurricanes lose a lot of wind at the ground where we measure it as soon as they hit the friction created by land. That doesn’t mean they’re not hurricanes the very nanosecond that they hit. Nor does it mean that it’s unnecessary to hoist hurricane warnings.
Let me answer a few questions:
1) The offshore winds were measured by buoys – look it up.
2) The on shore winds were most assuredly a big part of the problem – some have suggested the problem was only surge. The literally thousands of trees down in my town alone beg to differ – as does LIP)A.
3) Actually, the question was whether it was accurate to say that this storm was not strong enough to be a hurricane (it most certainly was strong enough to be a hurricane – even if it hadn’t recorded sustained hurricane force winds just offshore at time of landfall, it wouldn’t have been for lack of STRENGTH…it would have been for lack of dynamic support immediately at the surface) or that the lack of strength was the reason for the lack of warning issuance or that this storm would have been NO PROBLEM if it had hit Florida. All of those things are blatantly false. The reason they did not issue warnings was because they believed that it moved from being a tropical system to an extratropical low just before it came ashore, not because they lowered the winds to below hurricane force. And any 939 mb cyclone ANYWHERE is going to produce major damage and surges no matter where it hits or how “used to it” those areas may be. My request for a retraction stands.

December 5, 2012 8:07 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm
This article is not factually correct.
I respectfully request that its author retract the claim that Sandy was not “strong enough” to be a hurricane. I was MOST CERTAINLY strong enough to be a Hurricane. It made landfall with a minimum central pressure of 939 mb for crying out loud!! The debate was over whether the storm had “tropical characteristics”.
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane and storm scale:
Tropical Storm; 39 to 73 mph
Hurricane Cat. 1 : 74 to 95 mph scaling up to Hurricane Cat. 4 with > 157 mph.
So as Mr Souders states “sustained winds of easily 65 mph ON LAND and just offshore (without friction to interfere) there were sustained winds to 80…and gusts over 90 mph” – The storm therefore ranged between a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds and gusts of Hurricane force 1. Not pleasant but not the worst or near the worst. The storm wave surge was the problem.
Were the winds measured with a wind gauge or estimated Matthew?

December 5, 2012 8:08 pm

” non-issuance of hurricane warnings north of North Carolina”??
If at any time anywhere in the world someone was warned of bad weather, it must have been in this case. It was all over the news for weeks, all over the world!
Whether the National Hurricane center actually called it a hurricane or not north of North Carolina makes no difference.
I suspect this is part of an effort to make “extreme weather” more common, thereby proving there’s something “unprecedented” going on with the climate and the weather.
Soon we will be seeing statistics in the mainstream media showing a jump in hurricanes, not taking into account that tropical storms have also been included.
We’ll be watching..

December 5, 2012 8:08 pm

Gale Warning
Post Tropical Storm With Hurricane Force Wind Warning
Post Tropical Storm, Hurricane Force With Storm Surge Warning
“How Long Can You Tread Water?” Warning.
— from Bill Cosby’s “Noah: Me and You Lord.” 1963

December 5, 2012 8:09 pm

Many, many years ago when tropical storms were common a “reference mark” was determined to establish just how severe the winds were. Cat 1, Cat 2, etc. Now everyone wants to be a “victim” so we need to classify everything lower to be all inclusive. I am personally a “victim” of circumstance.
We should lower the long term standards of rating weather events to 40 mph for hurricane status so everyone experiencing a strong thunderstorm can rave about the ‘hurricane.” For those who build a cabin on the riverside, if the water overflows the bank you can rave about the flood and claim your victim hood rather than your stupidity for building on the river’s edge. If you build a house in the forest, when the inevitable fire comes along you can claim your “victim hood.” Build on the coast at 10 feet above mean sea level and you will certainly get your chance for “victim hood.” I shed few tears for your stupidity but please don’t ask me to pay for it.
End result, government steps in and allows no one to even put up a tent or picnic table in the 500 year flood zone. Then you will cry “victim” out the other side of your mouth.

December 5, 2012 8:16 pm

I think the warning system should be modified to issue some sort of a “hurricane
warning” or “hurricane strength storm warning” when a post-tropical or extratropical
cyclone appears likely to produce “hurricane force sustained winds”, or a storm
surge at least typical of the average 75-MPH barely-hurricane.
Hazel of 1954 produced hurricane-force sustained winds most of the way from the
NC-VA border to 70-75 miles north of Toronto – while post-tropical / extratropical
in type of storm. This includes Philadelphia and NYC.
There is also the March 1962 Nor-Easter which was the worst coastal storm of
the 20th century for much of New Jersey.
And, the October 1991 “Halloween Storm” / “Perfect Storm” which brutalized MA
to Nova Scotia , and was no picnic as far south as Jacksonville, FL and as far north
as Newfoundland. That was a primarily extratropical storm that both formed in a
strong-storm-favoring weather environment and sucked in Hurricane Grace.
When that storm was dying, the small-size un-named Hurricane 8 formed in that
storm’s center, and hit Nova Scotia as a tropical storm – with less impact than the
extratropical monster had. (Not new – Karl of 1980 also did that.)
That monster had maximum sustained winds maybe 70 MPH – barely short of
“hurricane force” – same as the monster Sandy had on USA land and coastal
barrier islands.

Gerald Machnee
December 5, 2012 8:18 pm

Katrina was a hurricane when it hit New Orleans. So why did they lose so many lives and have so much flooding?
Lets face it. They ignored history as has been shown in posts here, and are now looking for excuses.

December 5, 2012 8:32 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm
” … if a 939 mb non-tropical cyclone hits Florida, I assure you, it will cause a ton of problems just as it did in NYC. Particularly if it comes attached to FOURTEEN FOOT storm surges …”
Would you be silly enough to state a FOURTEEN FOOT storm surge from the low tide level when the normal high tide would be in excess of 6′ with regards to your reference level with the full moon? Are you hyping more than a little? Are you emotional?

Frederick Michael
December 5, 2012 8:53 pm

The idea that Sandy was not hyped ENOUGH is positively laughable. The name “Frankenstorm” was INVENTED for this storm. The only way we could hype storms more than this is to get them sponsors. Imagine “Sandy, sponsored by Federal Express” or even, “The Microsoft Hurricane Sandy.” If we can do things like this with the Orange Bowl, we can do it with hurricanes.
Next, “The Citibank US Senate” or “The Prudential White House.” Heck, this might be the answer to the fiscal cliff.

December 5, 2012 8:54 pm

This appears to be a bureaucratic contest over who’s “got jurisdiction”.
Mayor Bloomberg was on the TV just about any time I turned it on, warning people thath sht storm was strong and a heavy surge was expected due to the full moon.
Shut down of essentially the entire mass transit system alone should have been indication of the expected severety

December 5, 2012 8:57 pm

So the NHC knew about a really bad storm but they couldn’t say anything about it because it didn’t meet some definition in some manual? What were they afraid of? That someone would ask for their data?

December 5, 2012 9:04 pm

Oh…and as for surge…yes, this occurred at astronomical high tide, but 14 feet of water is still 14 feet of water…and 9 feet of actual surge above expected tide is still 9 feet of surge…which rivals most category TWO hurricanes, let alone category 1. And that amount of water can and will do catastrophic damage anywhere…Florida, Texas or NYC. The location only matters because the city is valuable property and the morphology of the sea floor and river system of the city made the situation worse.
But I repeat my challenge. Find any hurricane that made landfall with max sustained winds of 85 or less…and then find one verified sustained wind report of greater than 74 mph. You won’t be successful, but I wish you luck.

December 5, 2012 9:10 pm

I find it disapointing that a government agency is so poorly managed that they can’t use common sense when a masssive storm is hitting a highly populated area and issue warnings. Are they so stupid that they split hairs over defining the storm. We all knew that it was very dangerous through other means of warnings.
Even though the National Hurricane center apparently was handcuffed over semantics, As one residing in New Jersey, I can say without any reservations that we were adequately warned that this was a massive, dangerous storm and we were given opportunity to take measures and most took this advice seriously.. Our Governor took this seriously and strongly communicated measures that need to be taken including extensive evacuation of potentially affected areas.
While some seem to emphasize that this was not a full blown hurricane, it does not matter since massive areas over 100 miles from the path lost electricity for periods as long as 2 weeks and a storm surge over 13 feet was experienced over 100 miles north of the storm track. As others mentioned there were other factors that contributed to the impact of the storm like a lingering NE storm, high monthly tides, etc.

December 5, 2012 9:11 pm

Storms are fickle.
Precise predictions, beget lawsuits from agencies/governments with very deep pockets.
Err on the side of caution everytime.
As was done for Sandy.
The track/impacts were being broadcast at least 48 hours in advance.
When “The Weather Channel” sets up shop in your front yard, county, or state, it is time to prepare for a (the) storm.
Fair warning.

December 5, 2012 9:14 pm

One other thing…you may think Sandy was “hyped” just fine…but I was actually here on the ground watching the reaction of the citizenry. The lack of the issuance of hurricane warnings caused (a) Bloomberg to think it would not be a bad storm and tell the city’s residents that they needed to get their kids to school and themselves to work (b) people on Long Island not to prepare for the inevitable gas shortages and lengthy power outages (and I asked some folks what they were doing to prepare and heard them say “well it’s just a bad nor’easter…we get those all the time, right?” so don’t tell me the lack of the hurricane label didn’t matter.
There’s a difference between media hype (which we are saturated by so much we have learned to IGNORE it…and official recognition by the authorities that this is going to be a bad storm. The NWS did their jobs admirably…got the warnings out and worded them as strongly as they could…but people don’t listen to specific wording much…they reading “high wind warning” (which we get behind cold fronts and which frequently does not verify with damage) and “coastal flood advisory” and think “OK…gonna be storny…” whereas they read “Hurricane Warning” and think “oh crap…a HURRICANE is coming!” This storm was one where you needed to treat it with respect and prepare for a lot of problems…and people thought it was a nor’easter like any other even with the crazy FrankenStorm label.
That is why the Hurricane Center is considering altering their warning system. And good on them for taking such quick action, if you ask me.

Gail Combs
December 5, 2012 9:33 pm

Ygor says:
December 5, 2012 at 8:08 pm
….I suspect this is part of an effort to make “extreme weather” more common, thereby proving there’s something “unprecedented” going on with the climate and the weather….
Exactly what I was thinking. The government has a nasty habit of changing the accounting system when they want to fool the public.
Unemployment Statistics comes immediately to mind: graph and link
Walter J. “John” Williams of Shadow Statistics states:

Have you ever wondered why the CPI, GDP and employment numbers run counter to your personal and business experiences? The problem lies in biased and often-manipulated government reporting.
….One of my early clients was a large manufacturer of commercial airplanes… Suddenly, their model stopped working, and they asked me if I could fix it. I realized the GNP numbers were faulty, corrected them for my client (official reporting was similarly revised a couple of years later) and the model worked again, at least for a while, until GNP methodological changes eventually made the underlying data worthless.
That began a lengthy process of exploring the history and nature of economic reporting and in interviewing key people involved in the process from the early days of government reporting through the present. For a number of years I conducted surveys among business economists as to the quality of government statistics (the vast majority thought it was pretty bad), and my results led to front page stories in 1989 in the New York Times and Investors Daily (now Investors Business Daily), considerable coverage in the broadcast media and a joint meeting with representatives of all the government’s statistical agencies.
Nonetheless, the quality of government reporting has deteriorated sharply in the last couple of decades. Reporting problems have included methodological changes to economic reporting that have pushed headline economic and inflation results out of the realm of real-world or common experience.
Over the decades, well in excess of 1,000 presentations have been given on the economic outlook, or on approaches to analyzing economic data, to clients—large and small—including talks with members of the business, banking, government, press, academic, brokerage and investment communities. I also have provided testimony before Congress…

He even has a subscription only article: No. 479: Presidential Election, Hurricane Sandy, October Employment and Unemployment,

Gail Combs
December 5, 2012 9:39 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm
One other thing…you may think Sandy was “hyped” just fine…but I was actually here on the ground watching the reaction of the citizenry. The lack of the issuance of hurricane warnings caused (a) Bloomberg to think it would not be a bad storm and tell the city’s residents that they needed to get their kids to school and themselves to work….
Sounds like blame should rest squarely on Bloomberg’s shoulders (and his advisors). As Catcracking said the New Jersey Governor took the storm seriously and took it upon himself to do what he was paid to do. Bloomberg did not.

December 5, 2012 9:41 pm

Anthony, please forgive me, for this is entirely off-topic, but heartfelt:
R.I.P. Dave Brubeck. Composer, entertainer, teacher, leader, musician. Jazzman! Thanks Dave, for showing the teenage Herkinderkin possibilities undreamed.

December 5, 2012 9:44 pm

mr souder said: “But I repeat my challenge. Find any hurricane that made landfall with max sustained winds of 85 or less…and then find one verified sustained wind report of greater than 74 mph. You won’t be successful, but I wish you luck.”
Hurricane Katrina was one of the strongest storms to impact the coast of the United States during the last 100 years. With sustained winds during landfall of 125 mph (110 kts) (a strong category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale) …
Other storms have had stronger sustained winds when they made landfall including the following:
The Labor Day Hurricane, Florida Keys, September 2, 1935, Category 5, 892 mb, Approaching 200 mph
Hurricane Camille, Mississippi, August 17, 1969, Category 5, 909 mb, Approaching 190 mph
Hurricane Andrew, Southeast Florida, August 24, 1992, Category 5, 922 mb, 165 mph
Hurricane Charley, Punta Gorda, Florida, August 13, 2004, Category 4, 941 mb, 150 mph

December 5, 2012 9:52 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm
The NHC hyped this storm to no end. Same as IRENE. Maybe that was the issue. The NWS was spot on.
I logged current weather reports on WUWT as Sandy progressed up the Atlantic seaboard in live time (cut and paste) and included Bermuda to boot. Hype kills and you want more of it. Are you a sadist?
If 30 mph storms are classified as “hurricanes’ will that make it better?
TELL THE TRUTH! Leave it to the fools to decide their own fate!

Martin Mason
December 5, 2012 9:52 pm

Surely anything that prepares the population of the area better is a good thing? It wouldn’t have reduced the damage though, while we all want to live in nice prime areas we have to accept that nature makes no allowances and every now and again we have to pay the price. Surely the population couldn’t have been better forewarned though? We had saturation news coverage here in the UK for at least 2 days before the event. Sandy wasn’t the problem, built up areas being in its way were the problem.

December 5, 2012 9:55 pm

If it is not a hurricane when the storm hits land, then the hurricane deductible does not apply.

December 5, 2012 10:29 pm

If they change the rule, be wary of the climate bletheren also changing the historic record, or at very least, finding a way to say the next storm is “way badder than ever,”, even if its barely a wind !!

December 5, 2012 10:31 pm

Matthew Souders says:
December 5, 2012 at 9:04 pm
But I repeat my challenge. Find any hurricane that made landfall with max sustained winds of 85 or less…and then find one verified sustained wind report of greater than 74 mph. You won’t be successful, but I wish you luck.

Here’s a hurricane with max sustained winds of 85 just before landfall that had sustained winds inland measured at > 64 knots using doppler radar. As far as I can tell, the NOAA data does not include ASOS or AWOS measurements. Hopefully you are not basing your challenge merely on the lack of published data. Maybe, as ‘A Meteorologist’ you can find wind speeds measured at MLB?
The base page on Hurricane Erin 1995:
The doppler wind field from MCO:

Reply to  scarletmacaw
December 6, 2012 12:15 am

Actually…doppler velocities from Sandy were in excess of 64 kt too. Doppler velocities are not right at the ground unless the echoes are immediately proximal to the radar dish where such measurements are not very accurate anyway.
There’s a reason I specified ASOS and AWOS…because my original coments re: Sandy in which I quoted 65 mph sustained winds and was roundly mocked for said quote relied on the actual observed winds at ASOS/AWOS. But if you check RTMA (real time mesoscale analysis) there was a band of 85 mph sustained winds a the surface just off the Long Island and New Jersey coasts and sustained winds in excess of 75 on land. They just don’t always hit the ASOS stations. And if you’re wondering, that RTMA analysis for wind is a combination of radar estimates, RAP initial analyses and obs from surface stations.
I ask again…find me a storm with 85 mph or less in sustained winds at landfall that had 75 mph winds (sustained) at an official reporting station (and yes…those reports are publicly available…check weather underground, for example)…and win a prize. They don’t exist.

Dave Trimble
December 5, 2012 10:38 pm

I think your acronym “WHATS UP DOC” was very clever and humorous. Thanks for the effort and keep it up.
Dave on the left coast

December 5, 2012 10:43 pm

Let me add that Anthony is right. I’ve lived through several hurricanes in Florida, including hurricane Erin 1995 (described above) where the eye went right over my house. Hurricanes are not fun, and the power outages afterwards are a major nuisance, but we live with them. If Sandy hit Florida with the same size, strength, and bad timing as it had when it hit NYC, it would have been just another cat 1 hurricane, with no media hype before or afterwards.

December 5, 2012 10:45 pm

Matthew Souders:
I don’t know ANYONE who thinks Sandy was a cakewalk, or wasn’t extremely damaging, and yes, terrifying. But I have to tell you, I live in landlocked Calgary, Alberta, and even we were completely aware what was going to happen, DAYS in advance, and knew full well that there were going to be a lot of people analyzing it afterward and complaining that there wasn’t enough urgency to the warnings.
Thing is, despite the raw energy and destructive power, Sandy was not a hurricane at landfall. The definition of a hurricane has been clear for my entire life, and again, even up here landlocked and a 12 hour drive from the Pacific Ocean, we know the definition of a hurricane. And we also know that you don’t mess around with storms that approach hurricane strength.
I wonder how the rest of the US, and all of Canada, and for I know all of Mexico and Europe appear to have been fully aware of what was crawling up the East Coast, but the bubble of NYC kept the people there blissfully unaware of what was going on?
If I were you, I’d be wondering more why your news and alerting systems failed you, when everywhere else seems to have been completely aware. Personally I think it’s the same bubble of unreality that affects election campaigns.
As far as I can tell, the only reason “superstorm” is kept as a description is that it was more than a “storm”, but NOT a hurricane. And hurricanes HAVE hit NYC in the past… which is why so many people have so little tolerance for what we perceive as whining after the fact.

December 5, 2012 10:47 pm

I imagine if the NHC had issued a warning, they would have been castigated for that given that it’s not part of their mandate. It’s hard enough to get public servants to do what they are mandated to do, never mind what they are not. One thing I noticed during the broadcasts on the TV news was that the journalists standing outside in the Frankenstorm (presumably to give their reports some authenticity) were all wearing hats! That suggested to me that the winds weren’t all that strong given the the propensity of hats to depart heads in really strong winds.

December 5, 2012 10:57 pm

Herkinderkin said @ December 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm

Anthony, please forgive me, for this is entirely off-topic, but heartfelt:
R.I.P. Dave Brubeck. Composer, entertainer, teacher, leader, musician. Jazzman! Thanks Dave, for showing the teenage Herkinderkin possibilities undreamed.

Think I’d better take five…

Albert Stenton
December 6, 2012 12:06 am

Gail Combs said: “Sounds like blame should rest squarely on Bloomberg’s shoulders (and his advisors). As Catcracking said the New Jersey Governor took the storm seriously and took it upon himself to do what he was paid to do. Bloomberg did not.”
Indeed. Every weak-willed libtard who never sees a regulation complication he doesn’t like blames someone else than the tribe, when their pleasure seeking gets interrupted.
For the information of those who think this generation knows better than the people who built this meteorological system, it was put together by men who had to get around in big creaky iron boats, and big creaky aluminum planes, when they had to fly across hell and back in all weather, in all conditions, at all hours, without being wrong or IT WAS THEIR A$$.
They used college degrees which gave this generation the grasp of every electrical and electronic concept in modernized instrumentation and sensing PLUS the experiences of hundreds of thousands of individuals aggregating reports by people, interviewing people while bodies floated past in hurricane aftermaths; and they did it for the best benefit they could figure for a population whose average education level was the 10th or 12th grade in the 1950s and 60s.
Lack of any regard for the work of the people who came before you is the mark of the destroyer; the emotionally immature who believes because he bought a refill for his pen, he must have more to say.
It’s not happened to our infrastructure overall; but weather is and has ALWAYS been the scientific hall where every single hackster, hickster, huckster and hustler has squashed in with their unprovable, unmeasurable, undefinable and on-it’s-face-hockey contravention of the very elements that make measurement work; claiming it’s just too small for you to see it, but because it’s real big like all the air, it’s actually too big to see.
These hicks have people teaching that there’s an unmeasurable force in the planet regulating the weather, that doesn’t respond properly to instruments which measure reaction to light, instruments which measure reaction to heat, instruments which measure reaction to pressure, physical mechanical leverage, there’s no machine or instrument that measures it but it’s supposed to be scientific heresy to say you don’t believe it:
when the MARK of the SCIENTIFICAL HOAX is that you can’t measure it, you can’t predict it, you can’t replicate it with an experiment, you just have to go along with the rest of the people who say they see the complete sense in basing national and international emergency mitigation on an unmeasureable, unpredictable, unable to be even explained so that it leaves window tint on a car still functioning.
If you try to explain to your associates at work how your new tint film on your car works, you have to tell them that you bought that window tint to keep your car a little warmer.
Or you’re in violation of government employee overseen ‘signts.’
The storm warning system that works for MILLIONS – around the WORLD – and pioneered the art of saving human life with widespread electronically disseminated storm information in which a meteorologist or one who works closely with one and knows what he/she says better sound like the meteorologist training them – describes the storm personally in the syntax and format most important to the people and the property in the area
using radars undreamed of and hardly able to be comprehended by the average person – digital software & firmware algorithms that give the most basic to the most exacting information
from ANYWHERE in the WORLD
about where Sandy was
And Bloomberg says “HE JUST DIDN’T HAVE ANY WAY to KNOW.”
People really expect to not have others snort laughter to their face,
after every single particular about not just the Sandy storm, but the other two it intersected with,
were having every single metric
you can apply an instrument to,
given to him for free,
on the
Just sayin. Can you imagine if your boss told you to go find out kind what was going on with Hurricane Sandy & friends, and you came back and told your boss that you really couldn’t figure out enough to know really, what was going on?
Can you imagine yourself standing in the face of someone and telling them that story, and expecting to not only not get fired, but to not have your name make the circuit as the most embecilic diptard to have occluded sunlight meant for respectable people, by getting up & going outside that day?
Yeah we need a new system because I couldn’t figure out what was going on with the information available to me for free on the internet and from the top level managers of every single weather and oceanic monitoring organization.
Not in New York.
On earth.
Yeah I think we should just completely redo this whole thing because I know evertime I get one of those highly detailed weather reports and go check the instrument readings from a half dozen separate, computer-automated electronically regulated, I feel like GOLLEE! i shure wisht i NEW wut wuz uh… HAPPniN owt THAIR!”
Yeah THAT’s what I think. Especially after having grown up watching the system come to it’s present state, working with emergency leaership for decades and all, seeing how over,
and over,
and over,
atmospheric & oceanic metrics have gotten a level of precision that used to be reserved for SURGERIES on WORLD CLASS ROYALTY,
Captains of Industy,
Important leadership in politics of the most sophisticated empires ever known.
I’m putting myself in Bloomberg’s position and yeah definitely it was the hurricane warning system that was really at the cause of pretty much … everything that didn’t get done.

Albert Stenton
December 6, 2012 12:11 am

Spelling and grammar above, sorry, I meant in one place to write ‘can you imagine if your boss told you to go KIND OF find out what was going on with Hurricane Sandy,’
several other spelling and grammatical errors sorry

December 6, 2012 12:14 am

Just a thought – if they regrade or redefine ‘Hurricane’ definitions, will that mean that the climate boys can go back through the hurricane data and adjust them to show an increasing AGW effect on hurricanes? I’ll place a small wager that someone does it!

Albert Stenton
December 6, 2012 12:22 am

I purposely wrote that part about your employer telling you to go KIND OF find out about Sandy.
If you had been told and taught and had swung around drinking coffee and bullshitting and having people tell you stories, and having people from every single corner of your, particular burg, come talk to you about Hurricane Sandy,
Do you, as a potato chip truck driver, a manager at the Home Depot and an Insurance man at AllState,
do you as a farmer out making your rice fields and corn and wheat acreage, your roadway resurfacing, your concrete form building company,
do you the taxi driver really believe, that if someone told you go fetch enough information about Sandy that the people in your area could have a… a real good idea about just what was likely to go on,
do any of you here believe that after two weeks going around bullshooting and interfacing with people about this Storm and it’s associated smaller two,
that you would be still so flabbergasted and stupified, that you woudn’t really have much idea of how things had probably ought to go, to get the most return for the least investment of your resources,
especially if every news group on the east coast had every meteorologist on staff and retired, or obliquely interested, tweeting your assistants and you, sending you updates on pressures and humidity, temperatures and swell, all this —
do you really think you would just be so up in arms your response would be “WHAT WE NEED, is sum MOR REGyaLAYshuNz cauws I cudn; figur nuthin owt.”
Do you
REALLY think that just being some guy who fetched coffee for a third tier meteorologist at a small station that given the instructions to spend the next two weeks, to find out all you could, even though you were a 21 year old new guy with barely a clue,
that one of your concerns for your efforts as you tried to get out the good word
was that what would really have stopped a lot of the suffering was that the hurricane warning regulations made it difficult to know what was going on?

Albert Stenton
December 6, 2012 12:25 am

Again apologies for the lax editing

David, UK
December 6, 2012 1:18 am

theduke says:
December 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm
Anybody who wasn’t aware of the destructive potential of this storm as broadcast on radio and television and posted endlessly on the internet is an idiot. Forgive me if I’m short on empathy here, but COME ON!!

Is there a point to your little rant – beyond stating the bleeding obvious, of course?

December 6, 2012 1:19 am

Kev-in-Uk says: “if they regrade or redefine ‘Hurricane’ definitions, will that mean that the climate boys can go back through the hurricane data and adjust them to show an increasing AGW effect on hurricanes? I’ll place a small wager that someone does it!”
I’ll raise your bet that someone has ALREADY done it, and that indeed if you include storms in the metrics the trend for ‘hurricanes’ is upward/hockey-stick shaped and will nicely counter those pesky skeptical claims that weather isn’t getting any worse. Anyone on our side willing to do the cacls before they release it?

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:39 am

The point of Chris Landsea and the NHC’s reasons for this proposed change are being missed by most here in the rush to pile on about whether it was an official hurricane at landfall or not.
The PROBLEM was, and is, the now proven issue with the policy of dropping hurricane status regardless of strength North of North Carolina, as/when the storms transition to post-tropical cyclones – or Nor’Easters. .
The NHC and NWS polcies created a very poor situation where the storm was in many peoples eyes “downgraded” – lost its hurricane classification, despite that it most certainly was still a hurricane while offshore, and many believe it to have been a CAT 1 at landfall.
The following story described the problems they encountered and the reasoning for what they did:
NHC Reveals Reasoning for Non-Issuance of Hurricane Warnings for Sandy
I don’t entirely agree with their positions and decisions, but this was a very real problem. As the storm was at a critical point it stopped being called a hurricane. NHC and NWS scrambled to try and keep people informed.
There were many headlines like this:
Sandy downgraded from hurricane to tropical storm
Hurricane Sandy Downgraded to Post-Tropical Storm
Then there were these type:
Hurricane Sandy Downgraded, Then Upgraded Again
Hours after being downgraded, Sandy returns to hurricane
Add that Irene drew criticism it was over-hyped when it was not as strong and did less damage than warned, and you have a real mess.
Regardless of the claims of some, Sandy WAS, or at worst minutely below, a hurricane force storm at landfall. It had winds as noted by a meteorologist in the area.above that were CAT 1 level. There is numerous other evidence as well. Here is one example:
In the “Willis, not a hurricane at landfall” post ( ) – I provided direct data from a private provider – Weatherflow – used by (and identified by) the NWS around the time of landfall for their warnings, that showed winds in hurricane strengths.
I also showed NWS warnings that noted above hurricane force winds at landfall.
As an aside the Weatherflow data a was very interesting, They graciously made the Sandy data public. It is well worth a visit too that thread and to Weatherflows site to look at the quality of their system.
Not only did the “downgrade” to non-hurricane status, while remaining at or very near hurricane levels, create confusion, but it also had a gigantic effect on insurers. The Governor issued a decree that because Sandy was not officially a hurricane, that the hurricane deductibles on every insurance policy were not allowed to be charged.
This is perhaps one of the most ignorant and short sighted decisions made regarding Sandy. The action saves the current homeowners their 20% deductibles. But the insurers must make those losses up somewhere, and that will be from all who are insured, thru higher premiums. And premiums in those areas will raise even higher as the insurance companies now know they cannot trust they will be able to collect the bargained for deductibles, regardless of the strength and damage of the storm.
Poster Phil Night I thing had some excellent ideas on how to address the problems Sandy created – how to more accurately and effectively communicate danger levels of these storms. He proposes a “Threat Index” which takes into account the overall danger of each storm based on several inputs.
I think this is a great idea – as the same Threat Index – rating a storms danger on scale of 1 to 5 – can be used for all types of storm events, The criteria underlying may be different for say a winter storm than a hurricane – but the Threat index idea allows a ranking of the likely severity of each storm type. ,
It seems certain some changes must be made. The NHC proposed rule is a start in right direction, but I would think something like the Threat Index – which can offer a more subjective assessment of danger – is a better idea yet.

Albert Stenton
December 6, 2012 1:45 am

What I’m (obviously very poorly, grammar & spellingwise especially today) saying is that
it’s not POSSIBLE
to have not had enough information even if he was 19 years old, and told
“Vito you’re a good boy, a fine young man; and these zombies have killed alllllll the meteorologists, and that evil property-grabbing Bloomberg and me an’ Vinnie here is runnin thah vig on the hurricane wackin the Gambeezie brothers’ import bizness…
for the next two weeks Mr. Bloomberg’s personal assistant, who was saved by kicking Bloomberg’s evil #$$ out of the limo at the appropriate moment –
he’s a “friend of ours” and he’s gonna take you around, and you’ gonna tawk tuz awl, these people, see, an’ yu’wa’gonna come back heeyah en TELL us, wat thuh good people uh New York gotta KNOW, to get through this thing safe & sound. Kapish?”
Do you REALLY think it would be POSSIBLE for YOU – young 19 year old Vito, still skinny, don’t know why a coffee maker makes hot coffee come out,
to come back after two weeks
and NOT have everything you needed to tell the good people of that area,
what they needed to know?
I find that not only past impossible but past impossible for “a good kid, ”
19 years old who’d never been out of the Boroughs.
much less for anybody else.

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:48 am

It IS worth a read of the older “Willis” thread, however here are some of the links to the Weatherflow data:
The link takes you to the Weatherflow Sandy data page.
Select any station, scroll down and you’ll find the data archive graph, click on 10/29 segment to blow it up. (You’ll also find a map with other stations below the praph).
Here is the Tuckerton Station reading referenced in the NWS advisory I posted above:
Here is the Image link for the Tuckerton 10/29 data – please note that landfall was appx 4:00PM – and at that point this station had a 90mph gust, 60+mph avg wind speeds and 50+mph “lull” windspeeds. Please also note the relationship between gust wind speeds and sustained wind speed – usually 20-25mph, with max 30mph difference at peak gusts. So it really is quite easy and useful to look at a peak gust map as provided earlier and max a useful and reasonably accurate estimate of sustained speeds :

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:50 am

Here is an example of the confusion – I noted this comment I had seen from a reader somewhere in researching the data issues:
[blockquote]Here is a reader comment about the transition and naming change that shows the concern quite well:
“I honestly thought the storm had been downgraded when I first read the headline earlier today – but now that I read the whole story I’m glad I did. Nothing has changed about the storm but the name……..” [/blockquote]

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:52 am

One last image – this is like what Matthew, as a meteorologist, was talking about – it was from WeatherNationTv – a weather news provider – :wind speeds from 76-94mph

Tim B
December 6, 2012 2:30 am

There are nearly two generations in the Northeast that are unaccostumed to “real” hurricanes. Older people remember them though and the reality is that they are simply not as prepared to deal with it now as they were 40 years ago. tropical storms hitting NJ and Long Island is not novel. Full-on huricanes have hit them with rather impressive strength. People relied on themselves a lot more though because they were used to it and they weren’t so dependant on infrastructure. If cars were flooded in the streets, teenagers would move them for a tip so they could dry out. If the lights went out, they have kersense lamps and fuel-oil heat. Phone and TV weren’t essential. Now with the entire generation of young people expecting government to protect them and rescue their property, expecting once imaginary services such as internet and cellphones to never be out, let alone electricity, we are completely unprepared. Normal hurricane seasons will return and it will be interesting to see what happens when a real Cat 3 storm hits New Jersey and New York.

December 6, 2012 3:24 am

Hurricane? What hurricane?

December 6, 2012 4:26 am

I seem to recall pretty continuous “updates” on SuperMegaStorm Sandy for about a week before it hit. It wasn’t as bad as hurricanes that have hit Virginia and South the past few years. It seems to have hit an area that had little big storm memory or preparedness and a high population density. Also seems that the Federal response has improved only in the quality of photo-ops since 2005.

Doug Huffman
December 6, 2012 4:34 am

Very amusing, this argument from authority, “I am also a meteorologist”, authority diminished by the failure of rigorous professional standards – they aren’t dismissed for incompetence. Taleb suggests forecasters not having skin-in-the-game be given scant attention.
I’m watching the debate with some personal interest – skin – for having escaped such as Hurricane Hugo (my sailboat survived unscathed) only to discover that blizzard has no standard objective definition. Is a blizzard likely in the current weather pattern and will I live long enough to seen the Modern Minimum’s worst?
Believe nothing that you read or hear without verifying it yourself unless it fits your preexisting worldview (this latter clause excuses the invincibly ignorant too).

Doug Huffman
December 6, 2012 4:41 am

Otsar’s observation, “If it is not a hurricane when the storm hits land, then the hurricane deductible does not apply.” is spot on. Much of this kerfuffle is insurance/economically driven as storms are compared by inflated damage costs.

December 6, 2012 4:45 am

Change the classifications – which are, largely, arbitrary bands – and there’ll still be another storm that is “just under” the new classification and people will still whinge. What’s important is an accurate assessment of impacts.
Dear old Michael Fish was technically corrent in 1987 when he said there wan’t a hurricane coming, but by heck there was a big, bad storm on the way that caused extreme havoc and disruption.
Now we see the opposite where news bulletins are full of “Weather Alerts”, “Severe Weather Warnings” and such like for what are, generally, normal seasonal spells of poor weather. We have one active at the moment for about an inch of snow that may fall at low levels. It’s December. In Scotland.
I knew what Sandy was, what it was likely to do and what the impact was likely to be 3 days beforehand, owing to blanket media coverage – even in the UK. I can only assume that similar media coverage in its path was at least as clear – if not clearer. SO there can be no quibbling about what it was CALLED – we knew what it was likely to DO. Was it overhyped – possibly; was its strength and impact in line with the warnings that had been clearly given – absolutely.
The problem is that banging out severe weather warnings for events that are typical seasonal weather and don’t actually have any exceptional impact desensitises people to the warnings and means that when there’s a REAL severe impact likely, people tend to shrug and go “yes, like the last 27, we’ll just get on with normal life”.
We need forcasters to let us get on and deal with “bad” weather with a manageable impact and leave the warnings for “exceptional” weather with severe impacts.

December 6, 2012 4:51 am

This is a case of closing the barn door after the horses have all escaped. It is also called “covering your ass” (and is — store this added information in a safe place — characteristic not just of climate academics, but of our current President and his administration, since he does not know how to do anything but destroy everything he touches, and routinely needs to save himself from comeuppance), and it is the hallmark of incompetence exposed. Calling it “Superstorm Sandy” was clear hype, and part and parcel of the “global warming” incompetence (so blaming the NHC for not calling it a hurricane, or residents for not preparing for the water surge, are equally incompetent). We are in a World War, and anything we get from the media that makes our “leaders” look good is propaganda — and that is what this announcement is.

December 6, 2012 5:01 am

Are these weather people all “communications” majors? When communications is always the main focus, science is only a secondary consideration.

December 6, 2012 5:10 am

I just want to mention, for the record, that I can think of at least one non-hurricane storm that probably shows Matthew Souder’s argument to be a little, um, weak.
The great storm of 1987. Sustained winds of around 75mph, gusts up to 134mph, lowest recorded pressure of 953 mbar at the “eye”. If it had been a hurricane it would have been classed as a category 2 when it crossed the south coast.
And then it happened again in 1990.
I don’t know what this proves or not, except this: The ’87 storm destroyed a huge chunk of my country’s economy and directly killed 18 people, but we didn’t declare the end of the world and run around screaming that it was “unprecedented”. It was a very rare conjunction of atmospheric effects.
So was the storm that hit New York. It was not a hurricane when it made landfall. It was a very bad storm, but it was only bad because of a freakish (yet not unprecedented, as we’ve just seen) combination of weather fronts.
So there.
Can I have my prize now?

Louis Hooffstetter
December 6, 2012 5:12 am

Tim B is absolutely correct. The problem isn’t the warning system. The problem is that people have never experienced these storms simply don’t realize their destructive power. As a young man in 1989, when Hurricane Hugo was on track to hit Charleston, SC, I was excited at the prospect of experiencing my first real hurricane. My parents, who had lived through several Cat 2 & 3 storms, finally managed to convince me to leave. After seeing the devastation Hugo left from Charleston, SC to Charlotte, NC, I will never again think about staying.

December 6, 2012 5:58 am

Northerners are used to dealing with snow and cold snaps. Tropical they don’t know about, understand, or care about. Of course, no storm can possibly be important if it doesn’t
affect that most self-centered of all cities : New York, which still pretends it’s the center of commerce and trade.

December 6, 2012 6:17 am

Why doesn’t the USA just have a national environmental hazard system and ditch the divided communications. Put all the data from all type of hazards and disseminate it out.

December 6, 2012 6:44 am

I would like to suggest a graphic, much like those on large semis designed to tell idiots that really big trucks take two lanes to make a right turn: A graphic showing the vehicle driven by the idiot being hit by the truck. Maybe pictures of cars floating off, people on roofs, water pouring down through the street. We live in a society of people who don’t really speak a language much but they do understand pictures. So how about a hurricane warning system in pictures?
I also agree with some commenters that today’s scientifically ignorant, easily frightened, reality-denied children will be the ones who suffer. The deaths from storms will go up since the government cannot (and doesn’t even care to) be there to save everyone from danger. After a lifetime of childproofing and government handouts, these people will be totally incapable of saving themselves in a disaster. The death will go up, count on it.

December 6, 2012 7:01 am

Given the number of people that live in the area where the storm hit, what was the casualty rate as a percentage of the population?
If a storm hits an area where 10 people live, and all 10 people are killed, that is a killer storm. If a storm hits an area where 10 million people live, and 100 people are killed, then for 99.999% of the people it wasn’t a killer storm.

Doug Huffman
December 6, 2012 7:17 am

Michael, “Put all the data from all type of hazards and disseminate it out.” There is no objective and standard definition of hazard. I retired from a career in nuclear power with 3 REM WBE.
The essence of the current US political struggle is statist over weening government.
Believe nothing that you read or hear without verifying it yourself unless it fits your preexisting worldview.

December 6, 2012 7:38 am

Few people are ever killed by wind. Mostly it is water that kills people in large numbers. For example, tropical thunderstorm pack hurricane force winds but are rarely fatal. While tropical depressions that bring flooding without wind can lead to widespread death.
Thus, trying to rate storm danger based on wind speed is a nonsense.
Storm surge and flooding is mostly what kills people on the east coast of every continent, because the water is often shallow for miles offshore. The combination of high tide and storm force onshore winds drives water ashore which kills people in low lying areas.
If you want to measure the risk of a storm, measure the flooding risk not the wind speed.

December 6, 2012 7:47 am

There used to be a time when “Storm Warning” was sufficient for people to understand the term meant “risk to life, seek shelter and high ground.”
However, when the press starts using labels like “FrankenStorm”, then people will regard “Storm” as “no risk, business as usual”. Pretty soon we will need a label like “SuperDuperFrankenStorm” before anyone pays attention.
Why Not “PayAttentionNumbSkull” as a new storm classification?

December 6, 2012 8:03 am

Tim B says:
December 6, 2012 at 2:30 am
People relied on themselves a lot more though because they were used to it and they weren’t so dependant on infrastructure.
throughout history every 3 generations the hills people would conquer the city people and become the new city people. The first generations builds it, the second runs it, the third spends it.

December 6, 2012 8:34 am

ferd berple says:
December 6, 2012 at 7:47 am
Why Not “PayAttentionNumbSkull” as a new storm classification?
Why not a new 12-point scale, something like;
1. Nothing to see here, move along
2. No, really, nothing to see here, move along
3. Local Weather Service will issue warning
4. National Weather Service will issue warning
5. Event will be linked to Climate Change by relevant Weather Service / placemen
6. OK folks, wise up ‘cos something bad’s probably on the way
7. Even Porsche owners may want to put the roof up
8. You might want to take some precaustions
9. You might want to take a lot of precautions
10. You might want to leave town
11. You might want to leave the country
12. Have you seen “The Day After Tomorrow”?

December 6, 2012 11:00 am

If the authorities issue a warning that is over cautious, overstates the actual strength, the next warning will be ignored.
As usual, the NHC nailed the track forecast. That should be enough.

December 6, 2012 11:14 am

More nonsense and hand-wringing. When soldiers were being sent to Iraq, do you think any of them took the risks lightly because it wasn’t a declared war? When you see a “high voltage” sign, do you ignore it because there’s no accompanying “high amperage” warning? Sandy was identified by a variety of names including Hurricane, Superstorm, Megastorm, and Frankenstorm. Of those, the most benign to the non-meteorologist is probably the actual designation of “hurricane”.
This is an exercise in semantics. There was no material effect on the level of concern or readiness that was caused by the hurricane classification system. The risks were accurately described and elected officials and the the public prepared accordingly (or didn’t).
BTW, the Weather Channel was on site 24 hours before Sandy made landfall, standing in Battery Park and predicting storm surges in excess of 12 feet. If Bloomberg really did tell New Yorkers to go about “business as usual”, he should be removed from office immediately. I live in New Jersey and I had already decided that my kids would be staying home from school, dragged out my generator and deepened the drainage ditch that carries water away from my basement. I learned my lesson with Floyd in 1999, so if Bloomy is over 13 years old, he should have known what was coming.

December 6, 2012 11:19 am

Mark says:
December 6, 2012 at 8:34 am
That’s great! but to be fair, there may be too many big words and choices for the average dimwit to grasp! Y’know, for some people they just need two options :
Everything’s AOK
Dig a big hole and get in it!

December 6, 2012 11:25 am

None of the NOAA/NWS surface stations recorded any hurricane speeds for Sandy. I scanned the buoy network during and after the storm. The maximum recorded sustained wind speed was 28.3 meters per second (64mph) for one minute at Robbins Reef, NJ. at 0112 on Oct. 30
Robbins Reef, NJ
The next highest sustained wind was 26.8 meters per second at (0000 on Oct. 30) at Cape May station CMAN4. Thats 60mph, well below hurricane threshold.
Cape May
The majority of the offshore stations showed consistent winds around 24 to 25 meters per second during the peak of the storm. The official NWS land stations showed much lower sustained winds.
This has been covered before. The NHC makes projections and guesses based on aircraft based estimates of surface conditions. They consistently OVER-ESTIMATE winds speeds actually measured at the surface. Radar estimates are also subject to calibration errors, etc. The wind conditions for a hurricane are well defined. If you want to warn people of projected danger, then define the danger properly. Storm surge and flooding do most of the damage, not winds. Warn people that they wil die by drowning if they don’t leave low lying areas. Don’t build entire cities below sea level or on sand bars.

December 6, 2012 11:52 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we witnessing right now the largest/fastest freezing of Arctic Sea Ice ever? No fanfare?

December 6, 2012 12:02 pm

Let’s face it – the people in New York and New Jersey were unprepared for a baby hurricane (that, by the way, had been predicted statistically for 100 years or so) and now want to blame everybody else.

Gail Combs
December 6, 2012 12:28 pm

A. Scott says:
December 6, 2012 at 1:39 am
A treat indiex makes sense.
However it still seems like Bloomberg is ducking his responsibilities. He is the one who was responsible for the safety of his city.
There was PLENTY of expertise out there he could have consulted. Heck when the Governor of New Jersey acted Why the heck did he not get on the phone and ask the simple question WHY?
This reminds vid me of Bloomberg:

Gail Combs
December 6, 2012 12:47 pm

Tim B says:
December 6, 2012 at 2:30 am
….. If the lights went out, they have kersense lamps and fuel-oil heat. Phone and TV weren’t essential. Now with the entire generation of young people expecting government to protect them and rescue their property, expecting once imaginary services such as internet and cellphones to never be out, let alone electricity, we are completely unprepared.
I must be getting old.
We have kerosene lamps, a generator to run the well and frig a fuel-oil heater and a Coleman stove. I always keep extra water in stock too. We are on a hill 100 ft above the 100 year flood plain and 175 miles inland. We also have a chain saw, ropes and block&tackle to get the trees out of the road which we and our neighbors have done more than once. I also have four sets of chains for ice.
When I lived up north I always carried a couple bags of sand, shovel, extra clothes, sleeping bag, food and water and I was darn glad I did on more than one occasion. If a bad storm was forecast I dumped the cross country skis in the car too.
Bad Weather happens no matter where you live. Hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, ice storms and flooding. I have seen it all even earthquakes. (You want a real thrill? Try being in a cave watching the limestone bedding planes shift during an earthquake. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing!)
Have we really insulated people from everything so much they have lost the last vestige of survival skills? That is what it sounds like to me.

December 6, 2012 12:59 pm

Matthew S should have been in the Compostela Valley Phillipines just a short while ago when the Hurricane (typhoon) with winds 130 mph plus (Cat. 4) hit recently. Cleared a 700 km wide path, floods and landslides, wiping out the banana plantations, 200,000 homeless and 475 dead.
Still he reckons you couldn’t find one more severe than Sandy.!

December 6, 2012 1:08 pm

Perhaps add a Category 0 Hurricane……….

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:26 pm

bw – your buoy data was not sufficient. First there are many individual data sources showing higher speeds – including the NWS. There is for example the weathernationtv graphic above which showed many gusts from 76-90mph.
The hi-rez Weatherflow data I noted, which was used by the NWS during the storm, showed a number of stations in even a quick review with peak winds into the 90mph range, just as the number of other sources have shown.
Weatherflow stations are hurricane hardened, designed to accurately report up to 145mph – which is why I presume the NWS is now incorporating their data in their reporting.
Here is data from just one of their stations during Sandy:
They show 90mph gusts and 65mph “average” wind speeds. In looking at a lot of the Weatherflow station data the peak gusts are typically within 20-25mph of the “average” wind speed (which averages their peak and “lull” wind readings).”Average” wind speeds are not “max sustained” – which would be higher.
Here is just one NWS report from around time of landfall – this NWS Weather Statement was at 11:00pm EDT well after landfall:

1100 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012
LOCATION…39.8N 75.4W

And here is a link to NWS wind reports – where you can look at all parameters of the storm yourself – I pulled in the wind measurements:
NWS weather observations report max sustained winds at 75mph hours after landfall. And the mapped observations show a very large number of reported wind gusts from the 70′s well in to the 90′s mph range.
And you have other stations like the Tuckerton Weatherflow station showing average combined speeds of 65 and peak gusts of 90mph.

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 1:35 pm

More ….
NWS uses Weatherflow – and specifically notes this, in some of their advisory’s.
This advisory:
… at 11pm EDT 6 hours after landfall – was still reporting “hurricane force” winds – excerpts here:

1100 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012
LOCATION…39.8N 75.4W

And this NWS report:
… at 9pm EDT shows max sustained winds at 80mph w/gusts up to 90mph

WTNT63 KNHC 300101
900 PM EDT MON OCT 29 2012

LOCATION…39.6N 74.6W

I don’t think the NWS is in the habit of making up numbers.

December 6, 2012 1:53 pm

The proposal makes sense. I believe it was two years ago that the NWS added a “strong storm” notice for thunderstorms that were not severe yet but that could still cause problems for those in the path.

December 6, 2012 3:19 pm

As someone who lives near the DC beltway, Sandy was a bad storm, not as bad as the worst forecasts. Monday most places stayed shut from the week end, and the weather by mid-day justified this. There were some people who woke up Monday morning and said this is not that bad, but upon further thought, asked themselves if they thought they could get back home. I told several people that the schools were closed for two reasons, anticipated evacuations (schools are often used as temporary shelter), and risk of not getting students home safely. Tuesday morning everything was still shut down but the rapidly improving conditions had most people says the second day of closures was overkill, but many of us remember that those closure decisions were mad mid day Monday at the latest, and the forecast was for conditions at least as bad as mid day Monday, at dawn on Tuesday.
Sandy was not as bad near DC as the Derecho, or the storms of reference for people in the area, Isabel, and Agnes. It was still more than sufficiently powerful to require reasonable precautions, and most people in the are took them.

December 6, 2012 6:12 pm

For AScott,
Gusts are not sustained winds. I repeat — Gusts are not sustained winds.
Those NHC reports of sustained winds were based on aircraft estimates and not actual surface measurements. If you look at the ACTUAL measured winds reported from surface stations you will see that the maximum SUSTAINED winds were at the several NDBC stations off NJ and New York Harbor. Land based stations reported lower winds, usually 10 meters per second lower than offshore. Go to “Tidesandcurrents” at NOAA, you can plot the winds around the 28th to 31st of October. For example Cape May NJ
Clearly shows the winds during Sandy were never more than about 25 meters per second at any time. Gusts don’t count. Hurricanes are defined by SUSTAINED winds over one minute intervals.
I was watching Sandy closely, people were constantly reporting maximum “GUSTS” without regard to duration. If you want to change the definition of how a hurricane is defined then go ahead. You won’t find any reports of sustained winds that meet the hurricane threshold of 33 meters per second anywhere, land or offshore. NHC reports are not observations. If you can find any observed winds from actual anemometers that show sustained winds over 30 meters per second, then show them.
NHC reports of “Hurricane Gusts” are deceptive and dishonest. Gusts are not sustained winds. Claims are not observations. The difference is why Sandy was never a hurricane.

A. Scott
December 6, 2012 8:31 pm

bw – you obviously did not bother to look at the Weatherflow data I provided.
You can also look at Weatherflow or any number of other data sources including NWS and compare gusts vs average or max sustained speeds. You will find at the 70-90mph gust range that there is a consistent, typical spread of 20-25mph – occasionally 30 mph.
And the NHC/NWS does not report made up observations. They clearly differentiate between forecast and observed information. They also clearly differentiate between gusts and max sustained speeds. I suspect they have considerable resources you do not.
The NHC and NWS are far from perfect – but outright lies about observed weather data as you claim are not one of their faults. Your claims they outright liied about observed data – about max sustained speeds – leaves you with little credibility.

December 6, 2012 11:04 pm

I know this is going to sound pedantic, but the former hurricane Sandy was not a hurricane in New York City *NOTWITHSTANDING WINDSPEED*. Although this isn’t Slashdot, I’ll use a car analogy. Gasoline engines and diesel engines operate under the same laws of physics and chemistry, but their internal mechanisms are different. Similarly, tropical storms (including hurricanes) are different internally from extra-tropical storms even though they operate under the same laws of physics. Tropical storms tend to be more compact, attain higher speeds, and require warm air at their cores. Extra-tropical storms are generally much larger, with lower peak winds, and they work with cool air. Sandy was an extra-tropical storm over New York City.
Having said that, I think there is a need for a public education campaign about NWS warnings. “Hurricane Force Winds” or “Damaging Winds” warnings need to be heeded, regardless of the system that causes them (tornado, hurricane, extra-tropical cyclone, or a summertime convective thunderstorm).

Matthew R.
December 7, 2012 8:24 am

Sandy wasn’t a hurricane at landfall because it was no longer a tropical system, not because it lost strength (NHC claimed max sustained winds at landfall of 80mph). That’s of interest to meteorologists, but as far as those on the ground go, it matters not at all. Wind is wind whether the storm has a cold center or a warm, soft, chewy one. A storm surge is a storm surge whether it’s generated by a tropical or extratropical cyclone. So it would make sense to have the warnings to not depend on the type of storm, and just on its strength. I doubt they’ll do anything so sensible.
And as for wind not killing people: not true. Many Sandy deaths were caused by wind, especially by “falling” (that is, blown down) trees. Relatively few by water, because most people had the sense to leave the barrier islands.

A. Scott
December 7, 2012 1:01 pm

Matthew gets it. It was not called a hurricane north of North Carolina due to the transition to post-tropical cyclone status, and would not have been called a hurricane even with much higher wind speeds.
And strength and damage potential is the same no matter what the storms structure or what they call it. The simple issue and concern si that many people were confused when the NHC dropped the hurricane status for Sandy, despite at that time for sure it WAS still a hurricane. Many people (and media sources) reported Sandy had been “downgraded” … when the change from a hurricane to a post-tropical storm occurred. That is the big issue.
Add to that the big increased ALL people in the area will be forced to pay in future for hurricane coverage because the idiot governors made the decisions to unilaterally prevent insurers from collecting hurricane deductible because the storms was not “called” a hurricane at landfall.

December 7, 2012 5:28 pm

Sandy was not a hurricane because the sustained winds were too low. Hurricanes are clearly defined by sustained wind speeds of 33 meters per second using anemometers placed 10 meters above ground. Data are measured continuously, but those data are also integrated (averaged) for each one minute interval. Every one minute averaged data point is recorded and used to define the sustained speed. “Sustained wind” data is used instead of the instantaneous data for various reasons. In a large storm you look at the sustained wind data over many stations to learn what the storm is consistently doing.
If a storm passes over an isolated place without wind instrumentation, then the sustained wind speeds can be estimated post hoc from the resulting wind damage. Say from old photographs of Galveston. Controlled tests can be done on common objects to test these observations.
In the case of Sandy there are many anemometers showing the actual speeds. Not every station has functional anemometers. Plotting the one-minute sustained wind speeds shows Sandy at consistent 25 meters per second from Delaware Bay to Montauk, Long Island. All the buoy data shows the same sustained winds as the peak of the storm passed on-shore on the night of the 29th to the morning of the 30th of October.
Obviously, the NHC posted reports and advisories claiming “sustained hurricane force” winds at landfall. Those claims are directly contradicted by the NOAA/NBDC data recorded by the surface anemometers.
Land data show lower speeds than the buoy data. There is also plenty of video evidence showing damage that is consistent with sustained winds at around 60 mph for some hours on various structures, trees, signs, etc. The media shots of extreme damage were all from storm surge flooding.
If the National Hurricane Center claims that there were sustained hurricane force winds then it is up to them to justify their claims when their own data records show otherwise. One hopes that the taxpayers understand that some of their money is being wasted. I’d recommend an independent review of how the NHC makes their advisory statements, and prosecution of politicians involved.

December 8, 2012 6:59 am

I want to say that there is a problem getting people to understand HIGH wind. I live in Wyoming. Last week, I believe, there were sustained winds of 40 mph with gusts over 60 in central Wyoming. The Chief Joseph highway had sustained winds of 70 mph. Our highway department struggles to figure out how to get people to understand high wind. They rejected the idea of a sign with a truck being blown off the road, though I think that might help! Right now, they have those lighted, flashing signs. They also have wind socks on Outer Drive here but that only helps some. Few people understand wind strong enough to blow semis off the road in dry weather. I have pictures of trailers blown over, roofs ripped off, trees down. Our camper shell was damaged by a 6 by 15 inch, 10 lb piece of metal that hit it when it was off the truck, sitting on the ground. Small children and the elderly can be injured due to falls. One of my pomeranians was blown about 30 feet by wind, literally rolling along the ground. All due to “normal” winds. Contrary to a claim in the comments, wind related deaths are not uncommon. I was unable to find a link, but I recall our news reported 79 people were killed by wind last year, mostly male, many driving vehicles that were blown off the road. I suspect that on the East coast, once the word hurricane is removed, all conception of “high” was lost.

Matthew R
December 8, 2012 1:40 pm

A. Scott — the hurricane deductibles were probably not applicable anyway, which is why the insurers didn’t squeal much. New York didn’t meet the standards for the deductibles (which vary, but require either landfall in NYS, 100mph winds, or a Category 2 or greater storm: ), and NJ likely didn’t as well — for NJ, it requires measured sustained winds over 74mph in the state (which I believe means over land) — Also, the vast majority of the damage in the coastal NJ zip codes covered by the hurricane deductible was due to storm surge, which is under the national flood insurance program.

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