NOAA officials are experimenting with the traditional Saffir-Simspon Hurricane scale—used since 1975 to label hurricane impacts—by removing its storm surge ranges and flooding. NOAA hopes removing the surge information could make categories less confusing for the public.
Storm surge information is “scientifically inaccurate,” according to NOAA officials, and values assigned to storm surge within each category of the Saffir-Simpson scale are often incorrect. For example, Hurricane Ike made landfall in 2008 as a Category 2 storm (based on wind speed), yet the storm surge witnessed in Galveston, Texas, was equivalent to that seen in a Category 4 or 5 storm. Many people chose not to evacuate because they were told it was only a Category 2 storm approaching their homes.
The experimental scale, known as the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, maintains the Category 1-5 range, assesses only wind speed, and does not include other potential impacts, such as storm surge, floods, and tornadoes. More information on the experimental change to the Saffir-Simpson scale is available at the National Hurricane Center’s site:
NOAA is accepting e-mail comments on the changes until November 30, 2009 email@example.com.