Researchers Unveil New Program That May Predict Storm Landfall

Aug 2, 2013

NOAA satellite picture of Hurricane Hugo in 1989.  A new hurricane predictor model unveiled at Coastal Carolina University is named for the storm that hit South and North Carolina.
NOAA satellite picture of Hurricane Hugo in 1989. A new hurricane predictor model unveiled at Coastal Carolina University is named for the storm that hit South and North Carolina.
Credit NOAA

Weather forecasters may soon have a new tool that could predict a hurricane's landfall more accurately. Researchers at Coastal Carolina University say the Hurricane Genesis and Outlook -- or HUGO -- project uses climate factors and data from previous storm seasons to predict where a storm will hit up to five days in advance. 

The new model could mean more focused information when it comes to coastal evacuations.

"From the emergency management perspective, they really need information five..to four..to three..to two days out because they then have to decide who, when, where and in what sequence," said Len Pietrafesa who led the project.  "Unfortunately that kind of information has really not been available to them."

Emergency managers now base evacuation orders on what forecasters call the "cone of uncertainty".  That general information can lead them to send thousands away from coastal areas and clog evacuation routes.

"It's the sequence of events, it's where to send people, where not to send people..but also the timing of the evacuation as a function of where you are and where you want to get to," Pietrafesa said.

The HUGO project still faces years of testing to determine its accuracy.