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US centre to improve hurricane warnings

The US-based National Hurricane Centre has unveiled new policies, which could help give Bermudians more advanced warning of impending storms.

Under the new policies, unveiled earlier this month, the NHC will issue advisories for systems with the potential to become tropical cyclones and publish estimated timings for when winds in an area could reach tropical storm strength.

Kim Zuill, director of the Bermuda Weather Service, said that the moves would assist those living on the island.

“The ability for the NHC to now issue advisories on those potential tropical cyclones, which may form so close to land as to pose a threat, results in an improvement to BWS being able to issue watches and warnings for our community,” she said.

“This is particularly important in our area where there are several triggers which contribute to formation near Bermuda, including — but not limited to — the warmer water of Gulf Stream and the position of the Bermuda-Azores High.”

Asked about examples where the new policy might have helped the island, she noted Hurricane Karen in 2001, which built from a low-pressure disturbance to a tropical storm on our doorstep.

While it did not reach hurricane status until it was moving away from the island, it destroyed vegetation and downed power lines, leaving more than two-thirds of the island without power.

“We couldn't issue tropical watches and warnings until the NHC named it. However, BWS did have gale and storm warnings out,” Ms Zuill said. “A more recent example from this past season, this system would have assisted Jamaica issuing watches and warnings in association with Hurricane Matthew.”

She added that the BWS would discuss the changes in more detail during Hurricane Preparedness Week, which will take place before the start of the 2017 hurricane season on June 1.

The NHC said that pending final approval, it would have the option of issuing advisories, watches and warnings for disturbances that are not yet a tropical cyclone, but which pose the threat of bringing tropical storm or hurricane conditions to land areas within 48 hours.

“Under previous longstanding NWS policy, it has not been permitted to issue a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning until after a tropical cyclone had formed,” the statement said. “Advances in forecasting over the past decade or so, however, now allow the confident prediction of tropical cyclone impacts while these systems are still in the developmental stage.

“For these land-threatening ‘potential tropical cyclones', NHC will now issue the full suite of text, graphical, and watch/warning products that previously has only been issued for ongoing tropical cyclones.” The NHC also stated that it would begin to introduce “experimental” time of arrival graphics, highlighting when winds are expected to reach tropical storm strength.

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Published March 28, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated March 28, 2017 at 10:37 am)

US centre to improve hurricane warnings

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