As the largest hurricane on record when it made landfall two years ago, Sandy presented a variety of challenges for forecasters and emergency management officials. Some have since been addressed, but many others remain. Communication problems meant that residents didn’t understand the true nature of the threat or how it would affect them; warnings were misinterpreted; and people failed to take them seriously. Above all, there was a pervasive mistrust of the predictions, with many people falsely believing that the storm couldn’t be as bad as forecasts suggested, since they had never experienced anything of that magnitude. What’s more, for all the work forecasters have done to build credibility, incidents like the false alarm about January’s monster blizzard have been greatly damaging to those efforts.
In the aftermath of Sandy, the National Weather Service has taken steps to rectify some of these problems, starting with an extensive, internal analysis of its performance during the storm. It’s announced a number of policy changes to help ensure that it’s more effective reaching vulnerable populations in advance of storms.
But budgetary and staffing problems remain, as does the challenge of restoring public trust.
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