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EMA leads storm prep for first responders

Hurricane center makes forecasting changes

The National Hurricane Center has made three changes in the ways it forecasts storms, local Emergency Management Agency officials said Wednesday.

With hurricane season eight days away, the Covington County Emergency Management Agency talked with first reponders yesterday about the changes and what first responders can do to prepare for this hurricane season.

The first change the NHC has made is shrinking the “cone of uncertainty.”

Each year, the NHC adjusts the size of its cone of uncertainty on its average error over the previous hurricane season.

Frank Shaffer, deputy EMA director, said that the cone has shrunk by 33 percent over the last 10 years.

“Thanks to an advancement in the NHC’s technology, they are able to shrink it down and show a more accurate area,” Shaffer said.

The next change is that hazard information will be conveyed to the public five days in advance.

The NHC normally includes a text statement that includes all hazards, storm surge, wind, inland flooding, tornadoes and increased surf, ahead of a tropical storm or hurricane.

“One thing that is important is that people get prepared early,” Shaffer said. “Now since we will have more time to prepare, it will protect lives and property.”

The last thing changing will be in forecast wind products. Last year the NHC had a trial run for their experimental wind maps. This year, they will be official.

The map will give a timeline for when it is too late to be make preparations for a tropical storm of hurricane outside.

“We will now be getting these maps six to 12 hours in advance,” Shaffer said.

The NHC also will make a 48-hour hurricane force wind radius forecast beginning this season. Before 2018, these forecasts only went out to 36 hours.

“This improvement will allow forecasters to better communicate the risk of hurricane force winds for a given hurricane earlier before a hurricane arrives at a certain location,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer also talked about the predictions of storms that the Atlantic Basin Hurricane and Tropical Storm Center has made for the 2018 hurricane season.

According to the Atlantic Basin Hurricane and Tropical Storm Center, there will be 14 named storms that will cover 70 days, seven hurricanes that will cover 30 days, and three major hurricanes that will cover 7 days.

During the meeting, EMA director Susan Harris and Shaffer gave information about hazmat procedures, hurricane season, warning information, evacuations, emergency operations centers, public shelters, points of distribution, resources and training.

The purpose of the meeting was to get everyone of the first responders on the same page, Shaffer said.

“We need all of the first responders working towards a common good,” Shaffer said. “God forbid a disaster strike, we want them to be ready and prepared to do their job.”

Representatives from E-911, Red Level Fire Department, Opp Fire Department, Andalusia Fire Department, Andalusia Manor, Covington Pediatrics, the Covington Baptist Association, American Veterans Post 23 of Opp, and members of the Covington County Commission attended.