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Contact: Frank Lepore
News Releases 2003
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When Hurricane Lili struck the Louisiana coast on October 3, 2002 with winds near 90 mph, causing $860 million in damage, it was a shadow of its former self. Thirteen hours earlier, it was generating winds of 145 mph. Had the storm’s intensity not decreased, and Louisiana residents not acted to evacuate low lying coastal areas, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters would have a different set of lessons to share this season with residents along vulnerable stretches of the east and Gulf coasts as they conduct a five-day, five-city tour, May 5 - 9 to bring hurricane awareness to the nation. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.
“Our objective is hurricane-awareness,” said National Weather Service (NOAA National Weather Service) Director, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly. “Lessons learned in one locale have application in other hurricane vulnerable areas. Working as a team with our partners--federal, state and local emergency managers, local officials and the media--we can substitute education for experience.”
“We’re hoping to reach as many people as possible to ensure they understand and respond to the hurricane threat,” said Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center director. “An increase in the U.S. coastal population during the last several decades means many more residents now live along a vulnerable coastline. About 85 percent of them have never experienced the direct effects of a major hurricane. Hurricane Lili could easily have been a major storm at land fall (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).”
“Before the 2003 hurricane season begins, we want to ensure that the experience or lessons learned in Louisiana and elsewhere are known to others,” said Mayfield, a member of the awareness tour.
Mayfield will be joined on the five-day, five-city swing through the east coast states, by other hurricane experts and crew members of NOAA’s “hurricane-hunter” aircraft. The awareness team will meet with local officials, media and the public in Portland, Me.; New Bedford, Mass; Trenton, N.J.; Newport News, Va.; and Orlando, Fla.
The destructive power of a hurricane’s storm surge--the sea water pushed ashore by the storm’s winds--remains the greatest potential threat, Mayfield notes, especially when rapid intensification, which is difficult to forecast, occurs.
Rain-induced flooding may prove as damaging and disruptive farther inland according to a study by Edward Rappaport, National Hurricane Center deputy director. “Over the last 30 years, inland flooding was the most deadly hurricane component,” Rappaport wrote.
Dean P. Gulezian, NOAA Weather Service Eastern Region director, said “knowledge of your vulnerabilities to hurricane effects--wind, storm surge and inland flooding-- are fundamental to preparedness.”
The 2002 Atlantic Hurricane season generated 12 named storms, including four hurricanes- two classified as major. NOAA will release its 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook on May 19.
The Lockheed “Orion” WP-3D hurricane hunter aircraft, operated by NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center, carries forecasters and other specialists of NOAA’s Office of Atmospheric Research, Hurricane Research Division both for research in understanding hurricanes, and providing operational data for forecasting. Data gathered by the four-engine turboprop aircraft, along with aircraft of the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, are vital in analyzing a hurricane’s position, intensity and track. On this year’s tour, the aircraft serves as a classroom for area school children and the general public. The aircraft will be open for public and media inspection on the following dates and locations.