Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Impacts Matter

In the realm of meteorology, I give Gary Szatkowski a ton of credit.  He's the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service -- and one that won't mince words over social media.  Thank god he doesn't and that's why I give him credit. Witness his tweet-o-thon from Sunday night regarding Andrea...and yes, you should do a search on "Andrea weakens" or "Andrea downgraded" while you bang your head against a nearby wall or turn on your wet dry vac to run it for the 100th time in your basement.  FYI, the tweets run in reverse chronological order, meaning the last tweet of the series is at top.

Gary was one of the leading voices behind the Sandy warnings not being tropical in our area -- and while I'm in the minority of opinion compared to many other meteorologists, I agreed with it from the technical side of the fence.  Sandy wasn't tropical at landfall.  Not by much, mind you, but it wasn't.

Worrying about the "type" of storm any particular storm is really seems to be a bit of a misnomer...and can lead to problems.  Worrying about one singular point in a storm (where the center's location is) and the wind strength at the center, or what Saffir-Simpson category a storm is, also leads to problems.  Tell New Jersey residents Sandy was "just a Category One" storm and mostly likely they will smack the taste out of your mouth.

I saw this with twitter as well with our local TV media -- weather producers (or meteorologists) behind their TV station's weather twitter account were unloading more information about Andrea's wind speed and the center of the storm even though the storm's impacts here were rain, rain, and rain.

I give Brad Panovich in Charlotte a boatload of credit for going there with Andrea...talking more about the impacts of the whole of the storm and warning people NOT to fixate on the center and its trajectory.  This graphic, posted on Thursday, really drove home the point with this....and every meteorologist on television, on radio, or in print needs to get off the mentality of focusing on the damn center of a storm as the be all/end all.

A storm is simply not a point on a map.

Seeing meteorologists and weather producers on Friday talk or tweet about each nudge in the "cone" of Andrea suggests we haven't learned that lesson that Sandy was supposed to teach us.  Impacts matter.  They mattered in Sandy, they mattered in Andrea, yet we're fixating on cone wobbles on a storm that was going to produce rain...and a lot of it.

We're still failing to communicate what matters to the end user (the public), what they're going to get.

And we have to improve on it before prime time hurricane season kicks in soon.