This is not intended to be a complaint about any of the meteorologists we watch locally or nationally, but it is a plea for a better system of analyzing hurricanes and tracking their future directions. It is also a call to let the meteorologists report what they see in the data they receive and not sugarcoat it or try to be overly cautious to the point of actually mis-reporting.
A couple of cases in point. We were watching a senior meteorologist on a local TV station give one of the periodic tracking updates during hurricane Dorian. He noted that the winds were down from 85 mph in the previous report to 72 mph. After he finished his report the station returned to other hurricane-related news. About ten minutes later, the senior meteorologist returned to discuss the update and, without saying anything about a correction in information, simply stated that the current winds were at 85 mph. There was obviously an effort being made to keep the viewers focused on a worst-case scenario.
Later on another station a young, very knowledgeable meteorologist came on with current Dorian conditions and suggested that when all was said and done the storm likely would not reach the coast of Florida but rather stay 40 or 50 miles offshore and proceed north up the coast. When he concluded his analysis, the station returned to other news about Dorian’s destructive path. A few minutes later the young expert returned to caution viewers that his previous analysis was only one of a million results that could occur with Dorian’s future path. I suspect when he was off-air his associates or the station management counseled him not to be so specific and certainly not to forecast something that would comfort viewers and perhaps cause them to let down their guards, even if his forecast was spot on.
I understand the need for caution and to keep the public safe rather than sorry, but the systems for collecting and analyzing hurricane data need to be improved regardless of the cost because the cost to our citizens of preparing for these storms is enormous. Sure, the retail outlets make out like bandits, but then they don’t see their customers until another hurricane warning because they are stocked up on everything up to their eyeballs.
Let me provide a personal example. My wife and I decided not to try to outguess Dorian and instead reserved a room at an Islamorada resort for us and our dogs. We packed the car with our necessities and also with cages, pee pads, food and beds for our animals. That done, on Saturday we headed for the turnpike. On the way, my wife received an email from our resort destination asking guests to leave the property by Sunday because of the hurricane. We made a U turn and headed home. On the way my wife called the resort and was told that the email in question had been distributed Friday evening when the reports of Dorian showed the Florida Keys as being in the “Cone of Concern.” Of course, by Saturday the Cone had moved but no one at the resort thought to retract the email. So, guests undoubtedly left as requested, and incoming guests like us made other plans, in our case simply to go home and ride out the storm. In reality, it was extremely unlikely that the Keys would ever get the brunt of Dorian, but they were included in an abundance of caution to protect the public. Of course, the resort in question lost a lot of business as a result of that decision.