Hurricane Center to Issue Alerts Five Days in Advance

The National Hurricane Center will give hurricane warnings two days earlier in 2003, allowing officials five days to clear the coasts for the massive storms.

The expanded forecasts will be less exact, with a margin of error of about 350 miles, said Max Mayfield, director of the center. Current three-day forecasts have a margin of error of 200 miles.

Mayfield said the Navy requested the change because they require up to 96 hours to move docked ships and other equipment. NASA officials and oil companies also wanted more time to move equipment.

Other forecasters already issue warnings up to seven days in advance.

"If local meteorologists can do it, we certainly should do it," Mayfield said. "People need as much warning as they can get."

But some emergency managers said they worried the expanded forecasts will make residents more complacent.

"I have a problem with people overreacting to long-term forecasts," said Billy Wagner Jr., Monroe County's senior director of emergency management. "I hope they can get the error rate down."