Hurricane Center Extends Lead Time for Big Storms

It's a tool that could help local emergency managers make faster decisions when tropical storms and hurricanes come our way. The National Hurricane Center is extending its lead time for those watches and warnings by 12 hours. Jack Williams explains.

For many years, the Hurricane Center issued hurricane and tropical storm watches 36 hours before the expected
conditions. Warnings got a 24 hour lead time. Starting this year, watches will be announced 48 hours before storms
are expected to hit and warnings 36 hours ahead of time. Bill Read is the director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

"There are a lot of jurisdictions that require either a watch or warning being up in order to have schools close, businesses release employees. To take care of things like that require that specific notification. That's probably the number one practical reason that made this imperative that we do it. There's so many states now that because of the growth on the coast that have to make their decisions beyond 24 hours that basically a 24 hour lead time on a warning that was great 20 years ago just doesn't cut it."

Read says advances in forecasting technology make the increased lead times possible and actually shrink a storm's
cone of probability. Mark Sloan is director of the Harris County Office of Emergency Management. He says the new lead times are already written into the local emergency plan.

"It doesn't have a very large impact on our planning process. We'll obviously understand that warnings and watches impact us minimally but again, our primary focus is the life safety of our public and property."

Hurricane season starts in June.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...