The extreme wind warning and its role in improving public preparation and response to extreme landfalling hurricane winds in the urban environment
Bartlett C. Hagemeyer, NOAA/NWS, Melbourne, FL
As major Hurricane Charley moved rapidly inland toward the Orlando Metropolitan area on the evening of 13 August 2004 and did not weaken in the typical manner, the author and his colleagues at the NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Melbourne, Florida, knew that perhaps the greatest wind event in the history of Central Florida was unfolding. It was clear that this was the most extreme hurricane wind event since Hurricane Andrew in August 1992 and that people were not prepared for destructive inland winds in Orlando. Indeed, tens of thousands had fled Florida's west coast to seek shelter in Orlando. NWS Melbourne took the unusual step of issuing a tornado warning for the eyewall of Charley as it approached Orlando to catch the public's attention and get them into an interior room on the lowest floor and have them cover themselves as they would for a tornado. Miraculously, no deaths were directly attributable to high wind in the Orlando area from Charley, but this was far from the worst case scenario.
Based on success of the improvised “eyewall” warning for Hurricane Charley and past experience with Hurricane Andrew, the archetype for extreme hurricane wind, the author and several colleagues proposed that an official NWS short-fused warning for the imminent onset of extreme hurricane winds be developed and implemented. An official NWS Extreme Wind Warning (EWW) was approved for the 2007 hurricane season. These warnings will now be issued by NWS WFO forecasters for the county/parish or metropolitan scale up to two hours prior to the onset of sustained winds of 100 knots or greater from a major landfalling hurricane. The intent of the warning is to inform the public of the need to take immediate shelter in an interior portion of a well-built structure due to the onset of extreme tropical cyclone winds usually associated with the eyewall of a hurricane.
The Extreme Wind Warning is currently not well known among, or understood by, the public or the emergency management community, due in part to its newness and the lack of landfalling hurricanes in the 2007 season. There is also an underestimation of the threat posed from extreme winds in high population density areas and a lack of appreciation of how Extreme Wind Warnings can be integrated into hurricane preparedness and response plans. There also has not been a concerted educational outreach effort regarding the utility of the Extreme Wind Warnings. This paper is a step in that direction.
Joint Session 8, Forecasts, Nowcasts and Warning Systems in Urban Areas
Wednesday, 14 January 2009, 8:30 AM-10:00 AM, Room 126B
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