Valley office of National Weather Service helping forecasters track Hurricane Irma

Kristopher Drake
September 10, 2017

The Storm Surge Simulator allows you to enter an address or set a point on a map and choose a category of the hurricane to visualize possible storm surge impact.

As Hurricane Irma gathers strength, the government of Florida is bracing for the storm by moving its people out of harm's way.

In anticipation of its arrival, people are being evacuated in coastal Florida while others further away are keeping a close eye on what is one of the most powerful hurricanes in history.

But whereas they are important methods of hurricane forecasting, it is the old-fashioned weather balloon-a stalwart of the meteorological world since the 1930s-that can provide some of the most detailed, reliable data on the interlocking puzzle of large-scale weather patterns that ultimately determine where storms like Irma go.

"Wind will be the main impact across our area during Irma". The storm was expected to turn northwest near the already-storm-stricken Leeward Islands on Saturday, according to an 11 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center.

The technology is nothing fancy.

The offices, which usually launch their daily data-collecting weather balloons every 12 hours, are stepping up the pace.

The balloons rise to 80,000 to 100,000 feet before deflating and slowly falling downwind, the Valley office said. This would give forecasters a better sense of how strong and deep the trough over the eastern US will be.

Serr said weather patterns will shift locally as the hurricane progresses toward the U.S. More data, she said, means more precise weather-modeling and more accurate forecasting for the area that will be hit. Better forecast models significantly help the meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center forecast Irma.

Irma might bring severe weather to Athens, but its effects might also be mild.

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