Forecasters discuss Hermine impacts on
week after Tropical Storm Hermine passed over the Outer Banks, two
meteorologists from the National Weather Service Office in
Newport/Morehead City, N.C., spent the better part of a day on Hatteras
Island looking over the impacts from the high winds and the storm surge.
During their day on the island, they sat down for an
interview with Island Free Press editor Irene Nolan for her Radio
Hatteras show, "To the Point," which was broadcast on Sunday, Sept. 18.
Hermine approached the Outer Banks with heavy rainfall on Friday, Sept.
2, and passed over the area on Saturday morning, Sept. 3. The rain
bands with Hermine produced three tornadoes -- including one early
Saturday morning that destroyed about five camping trailers and cabanas
at Hatteras Sands Campground in Hatteras village.
Also, as Hermine passed over the islands and into the Atlantic, the
north wind picked up to sustained mid-30s with gusts over 60 and a
storm surge rushed into the southern Hatteras Island villages and
The surge was especially high in the southern villages of Frisco and
Hatteras, surprising some residents and many visitors.
Nolan's guests -- Richard Bandy, meteorologist-in-charge at the local
NWS office, and David Glenn, science and operations officer -- said
that islanders should not have been surprised by the height of the
"But we are not surprised that some people were surprised," said Bandy.
He added that some people, especially visitors, tended to look at the
event as "just a tropical storm." But he noted that a tropical storm
can have a wide range of impacts, and the impact from Hermine on
Hatteras was on the "stronger end" of what might be expected.
Bandy and his staff at the NWS office, in a series of briefings in the
days leading up to Hermine, forecast "significant" water level rises of
1 to 3 feet above ground level on the island. And, that, he said,
is about what happened.
At Nolan's house in Brigand's Bay, Bandy and Glenn measured a water
level rise of 2 feet, 4 inches above ground level and 3 feet, 6 inches
above normal water level.
In Hatteras village, they said most of the storm surge was 2 to 3 feet
with flooding up to 4 feet in lower areas.
said the "above ground level" designation -- not "above normal" -- is
what the Weather Service has been using for about five years.
"We hope that message got around," Bandy said, "and we believe it did
from talking to people down here -- but maybe not with tourists."
The change, he said, was an effort to "simplify" forecasting storm
surge and make it easier for people --especially visitors -- to
The top end of the 1- to 3-foot surge forecast is what most people on
southern Hatteras saw, the meteorologists.
"We can't exactly forecast the exact spot that's going to get the
highest surge, but everybody should be prepared for that top end,"
"Obviously, there are higher and lower spots in every yard," Glenn
added. "That's one of the difficulties of forecasting."
If the wind had been more northwest than north, which is what it was,
then northern Hatteras Island might have had the higher surge. Or
if the wind had been higher or lower that would have affected the
As a matter of fact, the meteorologists noted, none of the forecast
models showed any significant storm surge on Hatteras or Ocracoke, but
the NWS kept it in the forecast since "there were a lot of things going
on with this system."
Namely, they said, Hermine was transitioning from a tropical to a
post-tropical system. The cyclone's concentric wind field was
elongating and stretching out.
Bandy added that the Hurricane Center's new storm surge maps "didn't do
a really good job" in Hermine because it was a transitioning storm.
"The maps showed most of the peak surge north of our area," he said.
They also said that "we dodged the bullet on the oceanside."
Though Buxton had some overwash at high tide in the days after the
storm, Hermine did not slow down and intensify when it moved off the
coast, which could have caused many more cycles of pounding waves at
high tide and much more damage.
Even if a few folks want to quibble about the storm surge forecast, no
one will take issue with the tornado warning that ended up saving folks
from serious injuries -- and perhaps saving lives -- in Hatteras
David Glenn was on duty at the Weather Service office in the early
morning hours of Saturday, Sept. 2, as meteorologists were carefully
watching Hermine's rain bands come on shore.
Glenn said he doesn't think most people focus on the threat of
tornadoes in tropical cyclones, but the threat is very real and they
can "appear very quickly and then be gone."
The one that hit Hatteras village, he said, actually formed offshore
and was noted by a meteorologist watching the radar. He added that
having a 15-minute lead time for this type of tornado is almost unheard
The Weather Service issued a tornado warning for the area of the
Hatteras ferry landing at about 12:45. It is estimated that the
tornado touched down at Hatteras Sands Campground around 1:02 a.m.
Three people received minor injuries, but there was no serious injury
and no loss of life because some of the campers heard the tornado alert
on their cell phones and took cover in the bathhouse.
Bandy said the Weather Service was really pleased that the new
technology worked and that people got the tornado warning on their cell
phones. The technology is designed to work whether the cell phone
owner has downloaded an app or not.
The preliminary classification of the tornado was an EF0 with winds of
80 mph. It cut a path 100 yards long and about 25 yards wide in
In the coming days and weeks, the local meteorologists will be
analyzing their forecasts and Hermine's impacts.
"I think there's a lesson to be learned from every storm," Bandy says.
Perhaps, he said, the Weather Service should "tweak" its briefing
packages to separate out the Outer Banks, and to consider visitors more
in the impact statements.
Bandy noted that the Weather Service would be working closely with Dare
County Emergency Manager Drew Pearson, who guided the meteorologists
around Hatteras and put them in touch with some of the island's first
responders. Bandy and Glenn also met with county officials in
Manteo before heading to Hatteras.
To listen to the interview, which is about 30 minutes long, scroll down
to the "To the Point" logo and click on the arrow.
"To the Point" is broadcast on the island's community radio
station,101.5 FM on southern Hatteras and 99.9 FM on northern Hatteras,
at 5 p.m. on the first and third Sunday of each month. It is
repeated on the second and fourth Sunday. Those who don't live on
Hatteras can listen to the show on Sundays through live streaming at www.radiohatteras.org.
MORE ABOUT RADIO HATTERAS
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It broadcasts around the clock with news -- including such things as
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go to www.radiohatteras.org.
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Radio Hatteras memberships are $50 for a family, $25 for an individual
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