February 02, 2010
Last Year’s Storms and Tomorrow’s Warnings
The National Hurricane Center’s (NHC) Hurricane Specialist, Robbie Berg, shares insight into last year’s storm season and how to prepare for 2010

Q: Weather Channel meteorologist Steve Lyons shared that the 2009 storm season was less active than normal, among other characteristics. What stands out for you, about the 2009 hurricane season?

A: Yes, the season was particularly slow. We had 9 tropical storms and 3 hurricanes, only 2 of which reached Category 3 status or higher. This was the lowest activity season since 1997. This appears to be associated with the El Niño event that developed last summer.

Q: January 5, your office announced a major improvement in track forecasting that will allow you to warn the public 12 hours earlier than before. Tell us more about this important advancement.

A: The past decade has seen major improvements in storm track forecasting which now allows us to issue watches about hurricanes and tropical storms 48 hours in advance of the time when strong winds are expected to begin instead of 36 hours (and warnings 36 hours in advance instead of 24 hours).

Residents of storm zones have to make a lot of tough decisions in a short space of time when a storm is approaching. More lead time is something they’ve been asking for, and we were happy to be able to answer that call.

Q: The earthquake that has devastated Haiti comes on the heels of severely damaging storm seasons. What are your thoughts as Haiti rebuilds and prepares for the 2010 season which begins in June?

A: Haiti has been impacted by many storms over the years. The weak infrastructure and lack of trees and other vegetation makes flooding and mudslides especially frequent and severe. Regarding helping them prepare for the 2010 storm season- we play a key role in warning Haitians about approaching storms. I hope the various aid groups that are there now help repair the communications networks fully, so our warnings and updates can reach all residents there.

Q: What is your preparedness philosophy and what tools does the NHC site offer?

A: If you live in a storm zone, remain aware of the weather forecasts. Do not let yourself be caught off guard. As the storm evolves, make sure you have the necessary supplies. We have a supply checklist on the NHC website, as does the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which we link to. Prepare your home and businesses before hurricane season begins. Complete all other, short-term preparations (boarding up windows, packing for the evacuation, etc.) as quickly as possible once the warning is issued. In addition to hurricane preparedness checklists and storm updates all season long, our website has marine forecasts for boaters, historical data to compare seasons, and much more.