I’ve been personally stressing as long as Twitter has existed that the cone that the NHC uses and then public seems to love is a misleading tool, often causing deadly confusion.
The focus on the “cone” does more harm than good. It’s often forgotten, that the cone projects into the future the potential location of a center of any given storm. Serious Impacts especially in larger storms are always FAR & WIDE inside AND outside the cone.
While the tools the National Hurricane Center (NHC) provides do repeatedly state that the cone only forecasts the center and storm and that storm effects are expected XXX number of miles from the center, the public generally doesn’t grasp this. Most people do not read beyond the top lines of any NHC alert, and therefore mistake the area in the cone for the area of storm impacts. “We’re out of the cone,” is a common refrain which allows people to let their guard down, repeatedly before major storms.
I have said that not putting Lee and Collier under a Hurricane Warning when they needed to, was the fault of the NHC and potentially cost lives. However, I do have to note that the cone itself, just one tool in the NHC forecast packages that go out every six hours might be more decisive in creating either panic or complacency than the actual issuing of watches and warnings.
While the “cone of uncertainty,” has become a major part of Hurricane lore, the time to end this obsolete and largely counter-productive visual tool has come. Particularly as storms become larger and more potent, the cone is increasingly useless. Maybe the cone is still a decent tool several days from impact, but as a storm gets closer to landfall, be it in the Caribbean, Central America or the United States, the cone should be retired.
This should be among the reforms the NHC makes over the winter and spring months in preparation for the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season.