The NHC got it right with Nicole

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) rightly got lots of criticism for its handling of Hurricane Ian. Not only was forecast wrong because they essentially “split the difference” between models, creating a consensus solution which was way off, but they failed to acknowledge clear wobbles and slight turns on visible radar in their forecasting.

In Hurricane Nicole, a rare November storm in the Atlantic (albeit much weaker than Ian), the NHC got it right. In fact their advisories and timing of events as well as forecast track was spot on.

Early watches issued for Florida’s East Coast probably saved lives

Hurricane Watches were issued on the east coast from Broward County to Volusia County on Monday morning, three days before landfall, but only 36-42 hours before first impacts – good timing, and also important given Election Day presents its own challenges for county governments. As someone helping to lead the Democrats efforts in interacting with the SOE office in Broward County, the issuing of the watch was helpful. It allowed Governor DeSantis to go ahead and declare a state of emergency early, which made Election Day a little easier on SOE’s and EOC’s. This probably saved lives and property as well.

The forecast path didn’t deviate much from the model consensus this go-round, with the NHC realizing the GFS and Euro models, which were divergent on Ian, were actually close to one another on Nicole, even if other, less reliable models had the storm turning northwest earlier. Watches and Warnings were issued at an appropriate hour for the Gulf Coast as well and extended further north of Volusia in enough time as well.

Nicole battering the Tampa Bay area after it crossed the peninsula and began a northerly turn

Evacuations were orderly and efficient this time around – and I was amazed to see roads basically emptied in Broward and Palm Beach counties Wednesday morning – people had heeded the warnings.

Ultimately, the easy pushback on my narrative could be that Nicole was just a Cat 1 storm and that the presence of the Bermuda High as a steering current meant it was always going to hit somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach, eliminating the uncertainty we faced in Ian – this is correct, but still the timing of watches and warnings which became such a problem around Ian, was spot on and highly-cautionary this time – which represents a major redemption effort by the NHC.

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