Two Points of Interest from Bill Read

At Saturday's American Weather Conference, the director of the National Hurricane Center, Bill Read, had two points in his presentation I wish to share with Meteorological Musings readers.

  1. In the middle 1970's the average error in a hurricane forecast at 72 hours was 410 miles. In 2010, it was 130 miles. That is a remarkable improvement.
  2. In the part of the United States with the highest frequency for fires, there is a 1 in 500 chance of a home fire. In other areas, the probability of a fire is less. Across the U.S. as a whole, the chance of a home being damaged in a flood is 1 in 100. Yet, mortgagers require fire insurance. They do not require flood insurance if the statistical probability of a flood at your location is one in 125. Why?


  1. Probably because the rate of losses for fire used to be much much higher; With the advent of the National Electrical Code (in large part due to the fire fighting industry), I'm sure electrical fires have dropped tremendously in the last century. Similarly, kids 'play with matches' less, furnaces have replaced fireplaces, etc. etc.

    But we still want to build on nice soil in floodplains, because it makes it easier for the builder!

  2. Chuck,

    Thanks for commenting.

    I'll never forget when the South Canadian River flooded near Norman. On the south side of the river was a large billboard that said, "Choice Residential Lots Available. Call ----------" except you couldn't read the number to call because that part of the billboard was under water.

    We, as a society, have to make smarter choices rather than setting ourselves up for disaster after disaster.

  3. Well, we have, but we can't attack all risks & choices at once; we have to take on the ones that we have the technology and the know-how, now. Tho' we often focus incorrectly, or myopically. Case in point: Levees on the Mississippi; they protect towns, but now we can see they often do so at the expense of other areas, plus the river silt doesn't renourish the areas that were once flooded regularly. And here in NC, there is great hue and cry about beach re-nourishment, because people's (expensive) houses can succumb to erosion due to regular and storm weather. So which path to take? We have the technology to rebuild beaches, but SHOULD we?

    On the other hand, I (figured this out by myself several years ago) am convinced that the ability to forecast a hurricane's approach more than a few hours, to now several days, has saved an uncountable number of people.


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