NOAA to issue hurricane watches, warnings earlier

By Laura Thomas - bio | email

SOUTH CAROLINA (WMBF) - If a strong storm were to head towards the coast, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will now be able to issue watches and warnings earlier.

NOAA officials say with better technology and more accurate forecasts, they are now able to issue watches and warnings for hurricanes and tropical storms 12 hours before they used to. Sam Hodge, director of Georgetown County Emergency Management, says the added hours will give people more time to prepare.

"They've actually given us an additional 12 hours for watches and warnings, which will kind of affect the way that we - emergency management - do business when it comes to issuing evacuation notices and such," said Hodge.

According to NOAA, hurricane watches will be issued 48 hours in advance, compared to a previous 36 hours. Hurricane warnings will be issued 36 hours in advance, compared to the previous 24 hours.

According to National Hurricane Center, advancements in forecasts and technologies have given the ability to issue these earlier.

Derrec Becker, spokesman for the State Emergency Management Division, says the change actually puts NOAA in line with the precautions they've already had in place as a state agency.

"In the past, what we've done is made decisions 12 hours ahead of what their watches and warnings have typically been," explained Becker. "That's really as a precaution because we wanted to make sure that when the governor issues a voluntary or a mandatory evacuation, people have sufficient time."

The changes will go into effect for this 2010 hurricane season, which begins June 1.

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