Heavy rains and strong wind helped make 2006 a record-breaking year for the National Weather Service in Raleigh, N.C.
The office had issued 577 severe-weather warnings this year as of Tuesday, in addition to 86 flash-flood warnings. The previous record of 329 was set in 1998, according to the weather service.
“It just blew it out of the water,” said Brandon Locklear, a forecaster in the Raleigh office.
The office issues weather warnings and forecasts for 31 counties in central North Carolina, including cities in the Triad and the Triangle.
Officials have yet to analyze weather patterns from 2006, so the spike in severe-weather warnings may not reflect worsening weather but rather changes in technology, Locklear said.
High-tech radar and computer modeling has helped meteorologists issue more accurate, localized weather reports than in years past. A modern communications network also enables people to react more quickly to potentially dangerous weather conditions, Locklear said.
“Our technology is much better. We’re able to pick up storms that 10 or 15 years (ago) probably would have gone unwarned,” he said.
Cellular phones and the Internet also help storm spotters pass reports of severe weather almost immediately to the National Weather Service, which releases information to the public. In addition, the state’s increasing population means more people are watching the skies statewide.
“Ten years ago, who had a cell phone?” Locklear said. “Now if you’re driving through five minutes of hell you can let someone know immediately.”
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal,
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