I see there are a lot of new people around (Facebook is now over 15 thousand followers, which is scary/surprising, you people need a life!), so a few thoughts about real time storm events and this blog for those new to this.
Originally I had a blog for business purposes,and as part of research outreach. It actually got started as part of a NOAA grant I was working on with the University of Central Florida in 2004-5 or so, trying to figure out better ways of conveying storm risk to the unwashed masses. Those maps that you see here labeled with “plain english” categories like “branches breaking” or “severe damage” are one of the results of that project. After that grant ended I let the blog lapse, but the real time discussions got started because friends and acquaintances were always asking what I thought, and I got tired of repeating myself so I started posting again. In truth, I’m disappointed so many people say this is the most calm and reliable info they have found, so I guess I’m stuck with it.
I don’t make any money off of this; you will see no blipverts here, any you see on FB or Twitter aren’t mine and have nothing to do with Enki. It annoys me when people think I do, or am doing this for some self-aggrandizing reason. You note Enki doesn’t even have my name on it. Because that’s not important. So, about storms.
My biggest piece of advise is don’t get frantic, and don’t feel you have to chase every little wobble or shift in some model or another to be informed. As discussed in just about every post, don’t worry about individual track models. Unless you work at the National Hurricane Center or one of the other major centers, or are doing research in the area of tropical cyclone meteorology, to be blunt, you don’t have the background to interpret them (and chances are neither does the TV meteorologist showing you that fancy animation). If you notice, when I do discuss an individual track model, it’s virtually always in the context of the official forecast, or as a whole to illustrate a point. Unless you have some specialized need for more warning (in which case the TV/Media speculation isn’t going to help you), for planning purposes all you really need are the NHC official forecasts. As those who have followed for a while know I like their Key Messages product, You’re not going to do better.
So how often should you try to get updates? Unfortunately, the TV/”news”/social media beast wants to be fed, and fed often. But that’s counterproductive for hurricanes. Things just don’t change that fast and when they do, if you’ve been following all along, you’ll have plenty of time to react. Blown forecasts or genuine surprises are really rare – but people tend not to think that because “the beast” has to play up minor differences and “the latest tracks” to keep you engaged. Unfortunately, that is stressful. Don’t play that game.
Generally speaking, checking twice a day, in the morning and after school or work in the evening, are all you need in most cases. Check the NHC forecast, check to see if watches and warnings are up for your area, check your local Emergency Management Agency or local media to see what actions are being recommended (try to set aside all the noise over what if’s). Then decide what you are going to do, based on the PLAN YOU DEVELOPED BEFORE HURRICANE SEASON (or right now this minute drop everything, if you live in a hurricane prone area and haven’t yet)! The basic rule for hurricanes is “evacuate from water, shelter from wind” so know if you are in a flood zone (don’t forget rainfall induced flooding of creeks, rivers, and stuff that becomes a creek or river if you get enough rain!) A lot of communities also evacuate for wind. I have issues with that for other than very high winds because it vastly increases the disruption (and risk) for the majority of people, but I certainly understand not wanting to be out of power for two or three weeks (months if you live in Puerto Rico, but that’s a different rant). Of course, the calculations are a bit different for people with health problems. But for 95% of people and businesses, that’s it. The five days notice you get, assuming you have a plan, should be enough. If they aren’t, the problem is the forecasts uncertainty explodes beyond that (which is why NHC only goes to five days) and the “downside” of disruption outweighs any benefits of early action.
I hope that helps. Note that I generally only post twice a day, early (6-7am), and late afternoon (4-6 pm) unless something really changes. Also, it has reached the point where I get so many messages and requests for specific guidance that I just can’t answer them all. Sorry about that! Sometimes people ask if they can contribute to keep the site going. I really appreciate that! Even though it’s not for this, I’ve got good funding at this point (even if it, like most research funding, isn’t always as stable as I’d like it!) so I’m fine. If you want to help please contribute to a Caribbean relief effort. I spent a lot of time working with Caribbean governments and agencies in the 90’s and 2000’s, and while I can’t stand the sun in the tropics (I burst in to flames) I love the region. If not that, find an effort to help the less fortunate here in the US, or an animal rescue group. I have two feral/rescue cats in the office you may see in pics from time to time … so their colleagues always appreciate a helping hand.