Tropical storm forecasting improves in last 10 years

- To say the Bay Area is overdue for a hurricane is quite the understatement. Florida's last hurricane was Wilma in 2005, followed by a hurricane drought of more than 10 years.

The previous record hurricane drought for the state was 5 years. Even though we haven't had one in a while, there have been big improvements in tropical forecasting.

The National Hurricane Center has seen its forecasts improve 20-percent in just the last 5 years. Because of that, we’ll be looking at a smaller forecast cone for hurricanes this season.

While forecasts have improved, the National Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb still wants to make sure his organization can convey the threat of a storm to a public that may be experiencing hurricane amnesia.

“Just because you haven't experienced a hurricane since you've lived in Tampa... doesn't mean it hasn't happened. And if it’s happened before, it's going happen again,” Knabb said.

He added, the center continues to phase in new storm surge watches and warnings, which should become fully operational next year. There will also be new storm surge flooding maps to detail potential water inundation levels.

Besides gaging storm surge, forecasters hope they can help determine where developers can and should build. The information is being used at a new, $50 million storm surge facility at the University of Miaimi’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Brian Haus heads the project.

“We're looking at airflow patterns, the velocities, and then the structural response so that we can learn what the loadings are on that system,” Dr. Haus explained.

There's no doubt Tampa and the rest of Florida will be hit with a hurricane in the future. Whether it's this year or sometime in the future, everyone wants to be ready.

The National Hurricane Center is also working on a few other projects. It hopes to soon start issuing watches and warnings for potential tropical cyclones even before they form, and continue work on possible sixth- and seventh-day track and intensity forecasts.

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