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Hurricane Sandy: Were government warnings confusing?

Though the consensus is that forecasting of Hurricane Sandy was accurate, some criticize the way the message was conveyed. The National Hurricane Center will review decisions it made relating to this storm later this month and early next year. 

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Cangialosi said the hurricane center issues tropical storm watches and warnings and hurricane watches and warnings. But for other types of storms, the warnings are handled by local Weather Forecast Offices, which issue non-tropical storm warnings.

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In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center, said he still thought it was "overall the best course" to use local Weather Forecast Office watches and warnings to avoid a switch in warnings midstream.

Brian McNoldy, senior research associate at the University of Miami, said overall, the predictions on the storm were excellent, but he does question the decision not to issue hurricane warnings, especially since the storm was basically a category 2 hurricane just two hours before it made landfall.

"I think people generally tend to take a hurricane warning more seriously than a high wind warning," he said.

But given all the hype about the severity of the storm, McNoldy said word managed to get out anyway.

Moss said AccuWeather continued to warn its customers to be prepared for a hurricane, severe coastal flooding and strong winds over a wide area extending from Virginia up through New York and New England.

Few question the quality of the forecasting for Sandy.

"The computer models were predicting this storm would affect the East Coast of the United States as far out as a week in advance," said David Nolan, associate professor of meteorology and physical oceanography at the University of Miami.

"Compare that to events in previous times," he said, adding that the blizzard of 1978 "was a complete surprise to people in New England. If you go back further, there was no ability to predict such events at all."

Cangialosi agrees the hurricane center did a good job as meteorologists, but said the other component of the job is communicating the message, especially with emergency managers who are responsible for making decisions about how to keep people in a storm's path safe.

And in the end, the decision to classify Sandy as a post-tropical storm may save homeowners across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Maryland money because insurers can't enforce costly hurricane deductibles on storm-related claims.

Cangialosi said the hurricane center plans to review its decision on the warnings and other aspects of the storm with emergency managers at the end of November, and again at a conference in the spring.

"We're going to have to address what went right and what went wrong," he said.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; editing by Todd Eastham)

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