Hurricane conference comes to Charleston

      66th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference (Isaac McEntyre/WCIV)

      By Sonya

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Hurricane season doesn't start until June, but some people are preparing now.

      Officials from the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, and other federal agencies are meeting this week in Charleston as part of the 66th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference.

      "What we will do is, we will review what works and what didn't work over the last year and maybe work on some longer term things," said Bill Read, Director of the National Hurricane Center. "We know we have some challenges on the intensity of hurricane forecasting, so there will be a lot of research that will be underway basically the last 3 years to improve that."

      Something else that is being researched, but is at least 2 to 3 years away, is extending the hurricane forecast from 5 to 7 days. This would be very beneficial for us in Palmetto state.

      "It will be very useful for most storms that affect the Carolinas, because most storms you have form down in the Caribbean and you may have that much time for the system to use it," said Read. "My challenge, I'm getting, is for the folks in the Caribbean where they (the storms) form, I won't have 5 days and certainly not 7. Off the Gulf of Mexico, where forty percent of their storms actually form in the Gulf of Mexico, so until we crack the problem of forecasting way in the advance the formation of the storm, we won't be able to provide a 7 day forecast on all storms."

      In addition to improving hurricane forecasting, the other main topic discussed will be the warning program.

      "We had an impact from Irene of 53 million people," said Read. "We had 43 people that lost their lives, which is way too many, but in the grand scheme of things, if you look back historically, where hundreds of people would lose their lives, we are improving on that."

      And while they will continue to improve upon the warning system, no one is exactly sure what the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season will hold.

      Read said, "In all seriousness it's too early to pinpoint what the season will be like."

      One of the main factors that forecasters look at is ocean temperatures.

      "The next big factor is whether we are still in a La Nina or are we transitioning into an El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific," said Read. "That affects the weather patterns that dictate what kind of environment the storms form in and La Nina, as we saw last year, is conducive to more than normal storms. El Nino is a pattern that tends to reduce the number of storms."

      The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, will issue their first 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook in May. The only thing that we can do now is be prepared. In fact, Read advises that we learn our risks and listen to officials if a storm does come to town.

      The biggest threat here in the Lowcountry is the storm surge.