Hurricane Conference Notes Progress, Issues

West Palm Beach has been the scene of the annual Governor's Hurricane Conference, a gathering of professionals from across the spectrum of weather forecasting and emergency management.

One of the speakers Wednesday was Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

He said they're doing a better job forecasting where storms are headed, creating smaller cones of uncertainty, but that's creating a new problem.

"The smaller the cone, the more impacts we have outside the cone. Right? The more opportunity for somebody to say 'Well, I'm not in the cone,' " he said. "So we have work to do with the messaging; we have work to do talking about the impacts well outside the cone and getting people to understand it."

Graham says they need to push the message that impacts outside the 'cone' can be significant. 

Graham urged emergency managers to talk more about 'water,' which kills far more people than wind during hurricanes. 

He noted that 50-percent of deaths are from storm surge, 25 percent from inland rain. 

Also speaking was the head of FEMA, and Brock Long, who carried the message about water concerns farther. 

He focused on the dangers of flooding. 

"We've got to step away from the fact of whether you live in a special flood hazard zone or not. I don't care," he said. "The collective voice that puts out is 'Any house can flood.' We learned that in Houston. Over a million homes estimated impacted in Houston, alone."

Houston, and much of east Texas, got slammed by flooding from Harvey in 2017.

Long added that people, including fellow emergency personnel, needed to remain aware of the fact that FEMA can and will work with state and local partners, but it's not designed to be the first line of defense.

Hurricane season begins June 1.

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