This Rapid Response Research Grant (RAPID) provides funding to put a team of experienced researchers in the field to collect important time-sensitive data related to Tropical Storm/Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy. The severe aftermath of this storm put new urgency on the need for better understanding of and improvement in forecast and warning communication. The accurate forecast from the National Hurricane Center provided sufficient warning time for people to take action. For many, however, realization of the need to act came too late. This storm transitioned from tropical storm to hurricane to extratropical (ET) storm as it approached landfall in the New York City area. That transition resulted in operational changes in responsibilities within the National Weather Service (NWS) along with possible changes in how media and emergency management interpreted the storm's hazards. During the Friday to Sunday time before Monday landfall, when critical decisions had to be made, Sandy was barely a Category 1 hurricane, possibly leading people to think it would not have a dangerous storm surge. Its major impact was on an area not highly accustomed to planning for major hurricanes and having experienced one, Irene, with very different characteristics the year before. These factors may have contributed to response delay, but research is needed to find out what actually happened in the forecast communication process and make recommendations for improvement.
Results gathered will contribute to investigating ways for improving storm forecast communication to promote public safety and reduce hurricane costs. At least 125 people died (mostly from storm surge), and estimates indicate Sandy is likely to become one of the most costly weather events on record. Thousands of businesses, homes, and families were destroyed, many never to recover. If the increasing ability of the National Hurricane Center to make accurate storm surge forecasts is to translate into saving lives and lessening the damage and need for recovery so costly to government, the forecast communication and government response process must be improved. This need is the rationale to this project's gathering of time-sensitive information and its analysis.