When was the last time a Federal agency came to you and said, “Can we have your feedback?” “Never,” would be a close answer. But the National Weather Service (NWS), the true service arm of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is doing that right now. In fact, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has just posted a web page asking for input about its proposed new format for hurricane and tropical storm advisory messages. And anyone who has an interest in tropical weather may do well to take a look and comment.
For years, meteorologists and others have commented on how awkward the advisories are. That’s because there is so much information to present about storm attributes, weather impacts, and required safety actions. Sometimes, especially when a storm is near landfall, the advisories almost read like a book.
Then, emergency managers, the news media, TV meteorologists and others, like you, have to filter that information and figure out what is important.
In recent years, NHC and local NWS offices have been doing more and more with graphical displays. And this is definitely a plus because it provides us the geographical framework in a glance.
Still, when coastal flood warnings, overlap hurricane watches and tropical storm warnings, with a mix of tornado watches and flash flood watches thrown in for good measure, it becomes pretty messy, pretty quickly.
So, NHC is looking at using effective presentation techniques (often employed at scientific and other conferences) to convey the most important information in an organized and cohesive format. They are proposing to do this via bullet points and headlines.
I have my own thoughts about they are proposing, and I don’t want to bias your feelings with these. I will share my thoughts directly with NHC.
But, you should do the same. Take a moment to ask some of the following questions or others. Do you like what they are proposing? Is it clear? Is it better than what is being done now? Do you have ideas for improving the advisories further or changing what is being proposed?
Take a look at what they’ve offered and share your thoughts. Having worked for NOAA for many years (I have since taken an early retirement), I can tell you that this is one Federal agency that wants to deliver properly for its customers. So, when they ask for feedback, they truly want it. In fact, I would bet that NHC Director Bill Read, himself, will likely read many of the comments.
Feedback is desired by the end of November (so it can incorporated into an end of hurricane season review meeting), according to Dennis Feltgen, the Public Affairs director at NHC. However, you can always send e-mails to NHC about concerns and service improvements.
On behalf of NHC and its dedicated, professional staff, thanks for helping out.