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National Weather Service terminates Sandy assessment effort

  • Finger on the Weather
  • Published Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at 3:05 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, at 3:33 p.m.

The National Weather Service has abruptly shelved the independent assessment of the agency’s performance during Hurricane Sandy.

Mike Smith, a senior vice president at Accuweather Enterprise Solutions in Wichita, who served as co-chair of the assessment panel, reported the move on his blog Thursday.

“In an email at 9:46 this morning, Douglas Young of the National Weather Service wrote the SA team members:

I am writing to inform you that effective immediately we are terminating the spin-up of the National Weather Service Sandy Service Assessment Team.”

The panel held its first conference call on Tuesday, Smith said.

“We had decided who was going where, we were going over documents,” he said. “We were getting work done.”

Smith, who had written in his blog earlier this month that the weather service’s system of internal assessments following major weather events was “broken,” posed questions on his blog Thursday that had arisen in the early stages of the panel’s work.

Was there a decision not to call Sandy a “hurricane” regardless of its meteorological characteristics? If this decision was made, was it made Friday (October 26th) or Saturday morning? If so, who made the decision and why? Was this decision the reason hurricane warnings, in spite of a large and dangerous hurricane moving toward the coast, were never issued? Given that an obvious large and powerful hurricane was headed for the U.S. coast, why wasn’t that decision reconsidered? For example, Barry Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, urged (on the AccuWeather.com website) the immediate issuance of hurricane warnings about eight hours before landfall. Others also urged the lack of hurricane warnings to be reconsidered.

Considering the numerous deaths and the substantial amount of damage, Smith wrote, the Sandy asssessment “may have been the most important the National Weather Service has ever conducted.”

Rob White, president of WeatherGuidance, LLC, a private weather forecast and storm warning firm located near Austin, Texas, shared in his weather blog an e-mail sent by NWS spokeswoman Susan Buchanan.

No timetable for the launch of a possible “broader federal assessment” has been given.

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