Meteorologist explains changes in measurements related to storms

May 28, 2009 at 4:10 pm Leave a comment

*May 28, 2009
BY VANESSA C. DEGGINS

Weather forecasters explained new procedures they will have in place for the coming hurricane season as they met with local emergency officials on Wednesday.

Meteorologist Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles talked about changes to forms of measurement and how they will present information to the public.

The Saffir-Simpson scale — which determines a hurricane’s category — will only measure wind speeds and projected wind damage, Erickson said.

When the scale was developed in the 1970s, it only measured wind speed, but central pressure and storm surge measurements were later added.

“This began to create a problem,” Erickson said. He cited Hurricane Andrew in 1992, whose winds were equivalent to a category three storm, but the storm surge measurements were at category five.

He also stressed the importance of residents understanding the language forecasters use, using the difference between sustained winds and wind gusts as an example.

New tools the weather service plans to use include specific weather impact statements and graphics that show inland flooding and storm-urge measurements.

“People don’t always understand what 60 mph winds can do, so we are going to show them,” Erickson said.

Calcasieu Emergency Preparedness Director Dick Gremillion talked about the lessons his agency learned from the 2008 hurricane season and encouraged other OEP officials to make sure residents are informed.

“The meteorologists are experts on weather forecasting, we need to be experts on the impact of that forecast on the community,” Gremillion said. “We want people to know the elevation of their area and be able to explain what a 10-foot storm surge means.”

If your house is in a flood zone, you should have received an elevation certificate when you purchased the home. Gremillion also said people can call the OEP office to find out the elevation of their area.

He said the evacuations to north Louisiana shelters worked well, as did preregistering residents with special medical needs.

“We did have some communications problems with which shelters people were going to,” Gremillion said.

He said there are about 3,000 people in Calcasieu Parish without transportation.

“When evacuating people, we have to make that decision at least 72 hours in advance,” Gremillion said. That would avoid buses being on the road during tropical storm winds.

article link: http://bit.ly/tPuro

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