Before the title of this blog makes you think I'm writing of Naomi Campbell or Cindy Crawford, the topic here is forecast models -- not runway models!
One week before Hurricane Sandy made landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey, forecast models predicted a very strong tropical would move up the East Coast, striking somewhere in the Northeast on Monday or Tuesday. As the days passed, most models consistently pointed to a strike near New York City, with the potential for disastrous flooding from heavy rain and a strong tidal surge. With forecasts in hand, emergency preparedness officials were able to get ahead of the game, warning people, ordering evacuations where necessary, and doing as much as possible to prepare for the worst.
We now know that the forecasts were accurate. And though there was little that could be done to avert structural and property damage, it seems a no-brainer that the ability to provide plenty of warning saved lives. As of late Tuesday, the U.S. death toll from Sandy stood at 39. Compare that to the number of fatalities from a similarly powerful and destructive hurricane that struck the Northeast back in 1938. Dubbed the Long Island Express, the late September storm had more powerful winds than Sandy, coming ashore as a Category 3 hurricane. The final death toll was never accurately determined, but estimates are as high as 800!
True, the 1938 Hurricane had stronger winds, but just think of how many more people live in the D.C. to New York City corridor now compared to then. Think of how much more crowded New York City is today compared to then. Think of how much more development exists along the Atlantic coast now compared to then. With that in mind, it's amazing that there haven't been more fatalities. Early warning and a better educated, more-aware public (post-Katrina) are logical explanations.
Closer to home, the forecast models also predicted last week that we would have a damp, chilly start to the week, with a taste of frozen precipitation possible Tuesday and/or Wednesday morning. And that's pretty much what happened. Sure, the forecast was tweaked a bit here and there, but for the most part, the forecast models were on the money.