Meteorologists discuss how hurricane rating system affects public perception at weather conference

Meteorologists address communicating risks during storms at weather conference

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The National Hurricane Center uses a five category system to rank hurricanes with one being the weakest and five being the strongest.

It’s important to note, even if it’s a category one it is still much more powerful and dangerous than a typical storm.

WBTV’s Al Conklin has been tracking hurricanes across the Carolinas for three decades. While at the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas, meteorologists and emergency officials are there focusing on the current state of hurricane forecasts.

Al says although there are certain elements of the forecast that continue to improve, others are actually headed in the wrong direction.

Last year’s Hurricane Florence was spot on when it came to the track. It went directly over Wrightsville Beach where the rainfall forecast of up to 40 inches unfortunately forecast was verified, but the intensity forecast was a failure.

Once a category four hurricane with top winds of 140 mph, Florence weakened to a category one storm at landfall- not the major hurricane it was expected to be.

The public perceived that weakening as a lesser threat, which turned out to be a huge mistake.

More than 50 lives where lost, most in North Carolina and most inland, well away from the coast.

At the conference, Director Ken Graham gave a talk about this critical issue and how we need to do a much better job at communicating real risks to our viewers because somehow, the public is missing out on what the real threats are.

They understand the “big ones”, however in the past eight years category one storms- traditionally weak hurricanes have caused over $100 Billion in damage and taken 175 American lives. That’s unacceptable.

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