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Nation/World

April 5, 2013

Sandy criticism prompts change in storm warnings

MIAMI (AP) — Responding to criticism after Superstorm Sandy, the National Hurricane Center said yesterday that it would change the way it warns people about tropical storms that morph into something else.

At the height of Sandy, as the hurricane knocked on the Northeast coast, forecasters at the center stopped issuing advisories and warnings because the storm merged with two cold-weather systems, lost its tropical characteristics and mutated into a hybrid megastorm.

Sandy lost the hurricane part of its name and the prestige that comes with the hurricane center’s constant attention and reliable forecasts, and some people said that caused Northeast residents to underestimate its danger.

Under the new policy, the hurricane center in Miami will continue to put out warnings and advisories if a storm threatens people and land, even if a hurricane or tropical storm becomes something different.

“You don’t want to change the flow of information in the middle of an event. And what we had before was a situation in where hurricane information comes from the hurricane center, information on non-tropical system comes from other parts of the National Weather Service,” said James Franklin, forecast chief for the National Hurricane Center. “And, so, we didn’t want see that kind of break in the flow of information occur, so the changes we’re introducing this year will allow that flow of information to be very seamless.”

From Maryland to New Hampshire, the hurricane center attributed 72 deaths in the U.S. directly to Sandy, though some estimates were higher. It was the most deaths in the northeastern U.S. since Hurricane Agnes killed 122 people in 1972, according to the center’s records, which date back to 1851.

The hurricane center counted at least 87 other deaths that were indirectly tied to Sandy, from causes such as hypothermia due to power outages, carbon monoxide poisoning and accidents during cleanup efforts.

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