What is a “potential tropical cyclone?”

Some of you may be wondering why I keep putting the name Barry in quotation marks. Or you may be wondering why media outlets refer to this system as “potential tropical cyclone.” That’s a very good question!

In recent years, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has felt the need to give coastal residents as much time as possible to prepare for tropical systems. Sometimes, those systems develop rapidly at the coastline, giving residents little time to prepare.

So, what if we see this development in the model data and go ahead and tell people that confidence is very high in the development of a tropical storm or hurricane? This would give residents even more time to prepare, rather than wait for the system to suddenly develop on their doorstep.

In the past, the NHC would neither track or discuss systems that hadn’t officially developed yet, even if model data and all available guidance suggested that development was imminent, even development close to the coast.

Now, that has all changed. Whenever confidence is high that something is going to develop (esp near the coast) the NHC begins issuing advisories for a “potential tropical cyclone”, just as they are doing today for the system that will become Barry. Already, the governor of Louisiana has issued a state of emergency. Preparations are now being made for devastating flooding that will come to that state. In the past, no advisories, etc would have been issued until the storm developed. This system will likely not develop until tomorrow, but plans are already being made that will keep people safe.

Time is a very precious thing when preparing for disaster. With the old ways, advisories wouldn’t have been issued until sometime tomorrow, or whenever the storm decides to form. With this new way, advisories and track forecasts are being made TODAY. Landfall is expected on Saturday.

Protecting life and property is at the heart of NOAA and it’s always nice to see them adopt new policies that go even further in making sure that goal is met!

Let’s keep all the residents of Louisiana close to our hearts.

The Mississippi River is forecast to crest at 20 feet near New Orleans on Saturday. The flood walls protecting the city are 20 feet high. Any additional water from Barry would be quite concerning, and this afternoon’s model data suggests landfall closer to New Orleans. It’s still still soon to have much confidence in that forecast though. Model error three days out can be as much as 100 miles off.

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