The entire National Weather Service's "Service Assessment" for the "Hurricane Sandy Event" (as the assessment team named the study, hereinafter SA) has been terminated.
In an email at 9:46 this morning, Douglas Young of the National Weather Service wrote the SA team members:
I am writing to inform you that effective immediately we are terminating the spin-up of the National Weather Service Sandy Service Assessment Team.
We have been informed that a larger, multi-agency review of this event may take place... [emphasis mine]
Sandy will likely end up causing $100 billion or more in total (direct and indirect) damage and more than 125 deaths. Because of its importance, on November 2, I urged the NWS to charter a completely independent investigation.
The NWS, instead, decided to go ahead with its internal service assessment but for the first time put an outsider -- me -- in the co-chair position. I was told by David Caldwell, Director, Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services, that I would learn the NWS wanted an unbiased and thorough examination of Sandy.
Given the scores of deaths and the huge level of damage (according to media reports 100,000+ are still without power), even with excellent forecasts the Sandy Assessment may have been the most important the National Weather Service has ever conducted. Now it has been stopped. Why?
In the short period of time I worked on this project, a number of interesting questions surfaced:
- Was there a decision not to call Sandy a "hurricane" regardless of its meteorological characteristics? If this decision was made, was it made Friday (October 26th) or Saturday morning? If so, who made the decision and why?
- Was this decision the reason hurricane warnings, in spite of a large and dangerous hurricane moving toward the coast, were never issued?
- Given that an obvious large and powerful hurricane was headed for the U.S. coast, why wasn't that decision reconsidered? For example, Barry Myers, the CEO of AccuWeather, urged (on the AccuWeather.com website) the immediate issuance of hurricane warnings about eight hours before landfall. Others also urged the lack of hurricane warnings to be reconsidered.
While the team's work officially didn't begin until Tuesday (November 13), I had already gathered hundreds of pages of information, literally dozens of suggestions, and some rather tantalizing leads that Sandy may or may not have been handled as it should have been from a scientific, administrative, or communications standpoint.
Now, in spite of all of the suffering and billions in damage, we may never know how well all the storm was handled.
A personal note: I was very impressed with the other members of the SA team. I'm sorry we will not be able to complete our assignment.