What's new for hurricane season?

April 9, 2009 4:18:19 PM PDT
With less than two months to go before the next hurricane season, forecasters, government officials, and community leaders are brushing up on detailed plans to keep you safe when the next big one hits.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

You may have noticed ABC 13 Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller has been gone for most of the week. No he's not taking vacation, but he's been in Austin, very much involved in the National Hurricane Conference. Heller spoke with the National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read about the upcoming hurricane season.

Chief Meteorologist Tim Heller: This is kind of like the preseason for the upcoming hurricane season. How's the conference going for you so far?

National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read: Fantastic. The focus has been on not dwelling so much on the past, but what we have learned and what are some of the ideas to move forward.

Heller: Obviously, Hurricane Ike was a big hit for us in the Galveston area. What have we learned from that storm?

Read: From my perspective and what I can deal with, the most obvious thing is there's some considerable misunderstanding of how to handle storm surge. We've been putting together some experimental and even operational products for the coming season to hopefully improve on the understanding of the threat of surge.

Heller: Specifically dealing with the storm surge, you're coming out with some new warnings perhaps in the future?

Read: That's correct. Starting this year, we'll have a probabilistic storm surge which is a fancy way of saying that you'll be able to log on to our home page, find out the elevation you want to look at and get a probability map of what the chances are of it exceeding that value. We're still working on a way to make it uniform so we can use it nationwide, but I'd like to add the headline of a storm surge warning within our public product. That would get it more emphasis. And there would be an outline on the graphic of what parts of the coastline are under threat of exceeding the minimum value of storm surge.

Heller: In some of the sessions I attended, they were talking about a hurricane threat. Instead of it just being a hurricane, we're now talking about hurricane winds, hurricane surge, and hurricane rainfall. Is that going to be the focus moving forward for the Hurricane Center?

Read: Yes, my goal is to focus more on the relative threats of what the various elements of a hurricane to tell people. Be it surge, rainfall, high winds, wave action, tornados and the like. With the internet and high speed connections, we're going to be able to give better insight as to what those threats are. Hopefully, with some education, people will heed the warnings.

Heller: I know you spend a lot of time in Houston. How has the first year on the job been at the Hurricane Center?

Read: It was weird seeing Ike come in. I still have my house in League City, so it was a little weird watching the hurricane arrive from the other end of the telescope.

Heller: Thank you for your help. I hope we have a quiet season.

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