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Storm warnings, watches to be issued earlier

In August 2004, an upscale home on Captiva Island is framed by mounds of debris from a nearby damaged home, all the result of Hurricane Charley roaring through.

SCOTT KEELER | Times (2004)

In August 2004, an upscale home on Captiva Island is framed by mounds of debris from a nearby damaged home, all the result of Hurricane Charley roaring through.

You will get earlier warnings this year about tropical storms, the result of both greater need and improved forecasting.

Warnings and watches for tropical storms and hurricanes will be issued 12 hours earlier than previous years, the National Hurricane Center says.

That means tropical storm watches will be issued when tropical storm conditions are possible along the coast within 48 hours. The same time frames will apply to hurricane watches and warnings.

Tropical storm warnings will be issued when those conditions are expected within 36 hours. The same times will also apply to hurricane watches and warnings.

Remember, a tropical storm has winds of 39 mph to 73 mph. Hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph.

The increasing coastal population means communities need more time to prepare and evacuate. Advances in technology also have led to more accurate track forecasts.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale ranks hurricanes as a Category 1 to Category 5 based on wind speed. Information about expected storm surge and flooding will be issued separately based on each individual storm.

Tying storm surge to wind speed can be tricky.

For example, Hurricane Charley struck southwest Florida in 2005 as a Category 4 hurricane. The original Saffir-Simpson scale suggested the storm would produce a 13- to 18-foot storm surge. Charley, however, produced a storm surge of only 6 to 7 feet. But Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008 as a Category 2 storm, yet created a storm surge of 15 to 20 feet.

The size of the hurricane, how fast it's moving and coastal features are just some of the factors that must be considered when forecasting storm surge, considered the greatest threat to Tampa Bay.

Storm warnings, watches to be issued earlier 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 2:29pm]
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photo courtesy Mikell Herrick