Everybody in South Florida becomes a storm watcher when a hurricane threatens, and for good reason.
We flock to the National Hurricane Center's website, where the complexities of tropical weather are distilled into those familiar text advisories and graphic maps that are designed to keep you as prepared as possible.
This year, those graphics are getting a facelift. The maps of the tropics, for example, which have long looked as if they were birthed at the dawn of the Internet, will now look sleeker, with cleaner fonts and softer colors.
There are also some entirely new warning procedures and graphics.
"We were trying to deal with what we thought were gaps in the program," said James Franklin, Branch Chief of the center's Hurricane Specialist Unit.
The new products include:
Storm surge watches and warnings. Storm surge — or water inundation as a result of a storm — kills more people than any other storm-related hazard, so the hurricane center will release these alerts when rising water levels pose a threat.
Watches, warnings and advisories for potential tropical cyclones. In the past, such alerts could only be issued after a depression, storm, or hurricane had formed. The main reason is to give more people time to prepare.
Graphics that show the earliest expected time of arrival of tropical storm-force winds to a threatened area. This is being tried out in 2017 on an experimental basis. The goal is to emphasize what time to have your storm preparations completed.
The cone graphic will now include a yellow area that shows the extent of where tropical storm-force winds are located. This will emphasize that tropical storm-force winds can occur well outside the cone.
For more information, go to the National Hurricane Center's website at hurricanes.gov.