SOUTHEASTERN NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - Imagine: a major hurricane is hours from striking you, but you have NO idea. In the not-to-distant past, this was the norm. Category 4 Hurricane Hazel, for example, struck the Cape Fear Region in October 1954 with little more than 12 hours of advanced notice.
Today, satellites and supercomputers have vastly improved hurricane forecasting and warning. But one of our age's best tools for communicating a hurricane threat, the National Hurricane Center's official "forecast cone," can be misrepresented and is often misunderstood.
Please consider these dos and don'ts when interpreting or analyzing a hurricane's forecast cone:
DO think of the cone as a collection of most likely tracks for the center of a particular hurricane. DO NOT simply focus on the cone's center line and dismiss its edges as unreasonable track outcomes. In a hurricane forecast situation, your WECT First Alert Weather Team will share with you a range of most likely storm tracks and purposefully omit the center line of a cone's display.
DO consider that a hurricane's effects are often felt well outside the bounds of its forecast cone. DO NOT think "outside the cone" is equivalent to "all clear". Strong winds, flooding rains, and dangerous surf regularly occur dozens or hundreds of miles from a hurricane's center. Trust your First Alert Weather Team to not only analyze a particular storm's track, but also what such a track means in terms of impacts.
DO stay alert for updated storm information, including new and revised forecast cones. The National Hurricane Center releases new forecast cones four times a day. DO NOT "eyeball" a storm's path beyond the official 5-day cone; be patient and wait for the cone to become relevant to the eastern Carolinas. Your First Alert Team will readily retransmit, share, and analyze this information on TV, online, and on the WECT Mobile Weather App.
DO expect regular revisions to official forecast track cones. Subtle changes to the evolution of Pacific weather systems – yes, systems half a world away – often impart significant changes to the paths of hurricanes in the tropical Atlantic. As new National Hurricane Center forecast cones reflect these changes, DO NOT approach the revised information with a cynical or dismissive attitude. Rather, be ready to take the changes in-stride – staying with your First Alert Weather Team for full updates all the way.
Indeed, hurricane forecasting and warning has vastly improved since the days of Hurricane Hazel. In this great age of our science, thank you for responsibly referencing and carefully consuming the National Hurricane Center forecast cone – and trusting the experience of your First Alert Weather Team.