Meteorological Aspects of Hurricane Hugo

by Mark D. Powell, NOAA Hurricane Research Div, Miami, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Hurricane Hugo One Year Later


Despite recent improvements in the accuracy of hurricane forecasting at a rate of about one-half to one percent per-year over the past decade, the population growth in coastal mainland and environmentally fragile barrier island regions has increased the amount of time required to safely evacuate the public. Large lead times required for emergency preparations, coupled with larger uncertainties in forecasting at these times, suggest that the hurricane threat will remain a formidable one for many years to come, despite future technological improvements in forecasting. In Hurricane Hugo, the extent of this threat was illustrated by losses of near 7 billion dollars with 49 fatalities. One way of reducing the threat, is to make improvements in specifying the extent, intensity and distribution of the surface wind fields in the public warnings. This information is required both before and after landfall. The hurricane threat does not stop at the coast however, significant damage by wind, rain and flooding accompany a hurricane as it decays after landfall. The purpose of this paper is to aquaint the reader with the meteorlogical aspects of Hurricane Hugo through a discussion of the factors, influencing the storm track, the changes in intensity before landfall, and the surface wind distribution at various stages during the decay of the storm. We concentrate on the surface wind distribution because of its effect on structural damage overland and it's importance in forcing the storm surge and waves that produce much of the coastal damage. Most of the information supplied below was abstracted from the contributions to a National Research Council Disaster Study Team report on Hurricane Hugo and manuscript in preparation for submission to 'Weather and Forecasting', a journal of the American Meteorological Society. Some of the material is also contained in an article prepared for 'Shore and Beach', a publication of the American Shore and Beach Association.

Subject Headings: Hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones | Meteorology | Wind engineering | Forecasting | Storms | Evacuation | Emergency management | Decomposition

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