BREAKING: NWS Says Hurricane Warning Changes Only a “Proposal”

Around 1:15pm this afternoon, AccuWeather.com reported the National Hurricane Center was modifying the definition of hurricane warnings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy:

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 AccuWeather.com.

Just after 4pm, The Weather Channel seemingly confirmed the AccuWeather story, saying:

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.

In an email statement, NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro says this change is not final:

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.

Update (Wednesday 10pm): In a video posted this evening on AccuWeather.com, NHC Science and Operations Officer Chris Landsea says quite clearly, “the decision was made last Thursday at the NOAA Hurricane Conference to change the hurricane warnings and also to change the policy to allow us to do these additional forecasts.” That’s not to say that decision has been approved, or by whom that decision was made.

Update (Thursday 12:20pm): AccuWeather has posted the unedited version of their interview with Dr. Chris Landsea from the NHC.  At three times during the first 11 minutes of the video, Landsea says “the decision has been made” and that changes “will be made for 2013”.  I asked NWS spokesperson Chris Vaccaro, who said Landsea “misspoke”, acknowledging this is a “subtle nuance to the issue” and that the NWS needs “to be accurate in clarifying this is a proposal”.  The idea was received favorably at the NOAA Hurricane Conference last week but still needs approval at several levels including the NWS, other federal agencies, and other governments around the Atlantic basin.

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About Nate Johnson

Meteorologist, instructor, blogger, and podcaster.
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