Fox News Weather Center

New Interactive NWS Map to Better Explain Tropical Storm, Hurricane Threats

A new interactive hurricane map will be available during the upcoming United States Atlantic tropical season to help people have a better grasp of a storm's potential threats and impacts.

The map will depict the threat levels for the four main storm hazards: wind, storm surge, flooding rain and tornadoes, Pablo Santos, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Miami, said.

"The product is designed to answer a very simple yet common question: What should I be preparing for?" Santos said.

The number one issue along the coast is storm surge flooding and the number one issue once a tropical storm or hurricane moves onshore is inland flooding, Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

"Storm surge, which is created by a combination of storm motion, wind, coastal geography and tides, will raise coastal water levels to a few to as much as 25-30 feet in a relatively short period of time," Kottlowski said.

Storm surge is one of the most dangerous aspects of a hurricane.

"This can cover a large area and often brings total destruction and loss of life over a large area," Kottlowski said.

"Once the water level reaches a first or second story of a house or building, the structure is already damaged. The storm surge has a horizontal motion that is so strong and powerful that structures not properly built will fall apart. The whole structure then becomes a floating structure smashing into utility poles and other houses. This causes the whole structure to fall apart," Kottlowski explained.

Inland flooding can cause unusual flooding in places that don't normally experience flooding and this often catches people off guard, Kottlowski said.

"In both storm surge and inland flooding, people have no choice but to evacuate," he said. "A single homeowner or even a few dozen people cannot hold back the power of rising and moving water. Often people don't think about this decision ahead of time and the time spent wavering on evacuating will cost lives."

The Hurricane Threats and Impacts product features threat levels defined by using specific thresholds for each hazard, Santos said. For each threat level, there is a corresponding potential impact level describing the effect that the threat would pose to life, property, transportation, power and communication.

"When used real time, the graphics will evolve and be consistent with the latest forecast yet they are based on the worst-case reasonable scenario for that forecast," he said. "The threat levels do not depict what is expected at each grid point, but the threat faced at that location when you superimpose an objective measure of uncertainty on the latest forecast."

It would depict from the latest forecast the threat levels upon which you should be basing your preparedness actions, Santos said.

The map, which has been in the making for several decades, will be updated about 30 minutes after each advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Santos said.

Another quiet Atlantic hurricane season, which officially begins June 1, is expected, Kottlowski said.

"The 2015 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season will have lower-than-normal storm numbers but could still pose a serious threat to any coastal and near-coastal area; all it takes is one storm to impact a particular location and cause destruction and death," he said.

The full Atlantic Basin Hurricane forecast will be released during the middle of May.