after Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy – The Lessons We’ve Learned and Those We Still
Have Yet to Learn
Gary Szatkowski, Retired NWS, Hainesport, NJ
Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy produced record breaking storm surge and major property damage to the Northeast United States in October 2012. Forecast challenges included visualizing the magnitude of the storm surge and the labeling of the storm itself. Even well after the storm, partners had a difficult time accurately expressing what had happened compared to what was forecast.
Things we are prepared to do differently for a future Sandy include policy changes at the National Weather Service regarding hurricane warnings, as well as storm-specific track-based storm surge inundation maps. Issues that still need to be addressed for a future Sandy include effective, differentiated messaging to impacted populations based on their prior storm experience, as well as general public understanding of the impacts associated with terms that meteorologists frequently use (e.g., hurricane). Though some of the problem is with the listeners on the receiving end of the information, a significant portion of the problem is how we convey the message. Small changes in words or graphics/imagery that meteorologists would consider trivial provoke disproportionate responses on the part of the public and key decision-makers. Sometimes these responses are to our benefit (decisions move in the right direction) and sometimes they are not (bad decisions made using good information). Some observed patterns in these behaviors will be shared, as well as tie ins made to relevant social science work in these areas.
And all these topics (lessons learned or to be learned) are set against the backdrop of rapid changes over the past five years in how people access weather information via social media and the Internet. This presentation will address those issues as the weather enterprise continues to try to hit a rapidly moving and accelerating target.