When I started this website, part of the intention was to throw attention to the local meteorologists from around the country; especially when it comes to covering major storm events. I have links to all the local TV forecasts right here on my website for that reason. Local forecasters really do the best job of informing the public during day-to-day and major event forecasting.
At the beginning of last week, when it became apparent that the northeast would be bracing for a rare hurricane, I started researching hurricanes that have hit New York City. At the same time, I started linking my website to other TV stations in the line of fire: Wilmington, Norfolk, New York City. I happened to watch Lee Goldberg of WABC in New York. He’s a favorite of my mother-in-law’s–and her son, my husband, is a meteorologist.
Goldberg was taking a look back at the hurricanes that have affected New York City and the northeast. There are a couple noteworthy ones; the 1821 Norfolk/Long Island Hurricane, the 1893 NYC Hurricane, the 1938 Long Island Express and the 1944 Great Atlantic Hurricane. Then, there are a couple of noteworthy storms of recent memory: Hurricane Donna, Hurricane Gloria and Hurricane Floyd. (For hurricane research, you can also go to the National Hurricane Center website, but storm information only goes back to 1958.)
Goldberg decided the storm that came closest to Irene was Floyd. I applaud him for his bravery. Other national outlets were forecasting Lower Manhattan, Queens and other areas would be under water. He was forecasting major power outages and flooding rains from torrential downpours. He forecast that some low-lying areas would take on water. I can’t quote him on every thing he said, his forecast was very area specific because he knows the area. I don’t. I live in New Orleans. I can look at maps, try and find elevations levels, figure out which areas face the water, figure out all the inlets and outlets, which areas are prone to flooding, which areas are better protected. I can look at the bathymetry of the coastline and try and figure out why certain areas will flood and some won’t. I’ve done it for hurricanes here.
But honestly, that kind of research can take years. When you are forecasting for a local TV market, you take the time to look up all that information, so you can give an accurate and meaningful forecast. You live in the area you are forecasting, amongst the people you are forecasting to. When you broadcast for a national outlet, you’re just trying to get viewers.
I rarely comment in this blog. But watching the misinformation provided by national media outlets made me turn the cable TV off this week, and rely on my online TV forecasters. The ones from the local markets, the ones who actually care what speed the winds are, how much rain they get, how high the storm surge will actually be. They try and give an accurate forecast because they are personally relying on it.