Hermine – What an Odd Storm

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Well, Hermine is finally here. My hair is about 5-10 percent grayer than it was before this storm appeared on our “radar”! From the beginning Hermine was an enigma and was a real pain to forecast. Forecasts from our computer models and the National Hurricane Center were exceptionally poor and there’s no doubt a lot of people annoyed at the shifting forecasts for the Labor Day weekend.

I can’t think of one model that performed well and I really can’t think of a tropical/post-tropical storm up here where the models performed worse. It was an ugly storm for numerical weather prediction.

It’s important to remember that here in Connecticut we never expected a major storm and didn’t really expect any serious impacts. For days we were mentioning that a “glancing blow” was the most likely scenario with some isolated power outages and some coastal flooding on the Sound – but nothing worse than a typical nor’easter.

CrXHPOqWIAAUrcGYou wouldn’t get that same impression reading statements from the National Weather Service, however! The initial wording on the tropical storm watch issued days ahead of the storm was beyond ridiculous (and apparently in error).

A 15-25 mph wind with gusts to 35 mph requires “hiding from the wind” and the need to adequately shelter? To me it sounds like a breezy day. I hope anyone who hid on Thursday has emerged from their hiding space to enjoy the beautiful weekend weather.

Even after the threat continued to diminish statements coming from the National Weather Service on Long Island were indicating the kind of damage one would expected to see from a storm like Tropical Storm Irene and not Hermine’s remnant gusts. This statement issued at 1:37 p.m. Sunday seemed way over the top to me.

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We’ve been expecting a “minor” impact from days. Wind gusts in the 40-50 mph range in southeastern Connecticut just doesn’t do this kind of damage.

On Saturday night at 11:50 p.m. the National Weather Service was talking about a “life-threatening storm surge” on Long Island Sound when it seemed clear we would be dealing with mainly offshore winds – and most storm surge guidance was showing minor to low-end moderate coastal flooding at worst.

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This to me is a case of impact based statements gone bad. From the beginning the messaging with Hermine coming from some places has been only “worst case scenario” and not what the most likely scenario was. Getting people to prepare for a worst case scenario is important but we aren’t doing ourselves any good only talking about a scenario that has a 10% chance of occurring.

It struck me as odd that if someone was listening to our newscast at 11 p.m. Saturday that they would have taken away a message of, “minor coastal flooding and some minor wind issues – nothing to be overly worried about” yet if they read the Hurricane Local Statement from the NWS they would have though Irene 2.0 was on its way. We need to do a better job as a weather community communicating actual risk and changing the message when the threat evolves. I’m not sure where this breakdown occurred and why there was such disparate messaging coming out.

This storm was poorly forecast, poorly communicated, and a bust. Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely new – Joaquin last year wasn’t exactly a treat. I wonder what storm in 2017 we can muster up to drive me crazy.