A Pennsylvania company has come up with a new way to give the public better information on how to prepare for the impact of a hurricane, and it could save lives and billions of dollars.
AccuWeather, which is based in State College, has added a new level to the traditional Saffir-Simpson Scale that meteorologists use to measure hurricane strength.
AccuWeather’s new RealImpact Scale for hurricanes will go further than measuring the wind speed and measure other factors such as where it makes landfall and any flooding it could bring to give government, businesses and individuals a better idea of what kind of damage a hurricane will do.
Dr. Joel Myers, founder and CEO of AccuWeather, said he had been thinking of ways to improve hurricane forecasts for some time, but got inspired after the wreckage left behind by Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“The current scale is very limited. It only reflects the wind and the time and the location,” he said.
When Hurricane Harvey was coming in, he said it was somewhat weakened as it approached landfall.
Financial experts were predicting financial damage of between $6 billion and 8 billion.
While those were significant numbers, he said he knew they weren’t taking into account the other storm-related problems Harvey was going to cause and predicted damage closer to $160 billion.
“This was a real threat to lives and property,” he said.
Harvey led to significant deaths, damage and destruction with sustained winds of 130 mph, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
On the new AccuWeather RealImpact Scale, Harvey would have been designated as an AccuWeather RI5 (RealImpact 5) hurricane because of the flooding and the winds.
He said had hurricane-hit communities been better prepared, lives could have been saved, damage minimized and rescue efforts expedited.
He said that extra information can help not just businesses plan but governments and emergency responders.
“We’re not trying to replace the decisions of government. We’re just trying to give them better information to make better decisions.
He said businesses ranging from retailers to insurance companies can also make better plans with more detailed information on a hurricane’s impact.
AccuWeather introduced the new rating system at the American Meteorological Society's annual meeting. It will be using the new rating system beginning with the next hurricane season.