Storm Surge Warnings, Radar Upgrades Ahead for National Weather Service

Major upgrades are underway at the National Weather Service, just in time for severe weather and hurricane seasons.

We saw numerous rounds of coastal flooding in New England this winter, but in a hurricane the wall of water pushed ashore, known as storm surge, can be much worse.

"As damaging and as dramatic as the winds may be, it’s the storm surge that often kills people," says Bob Thompson, the meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service in Taunton, Massachusetts.

Starting this summer, the weather service will issue special maps any time a tropical system could produce flooding of at least three feet.

"Three feet is easily enough to float a vehicle, even a pretty good sized pick up truck, SUV," he adds.

The colors on each map won’t show the most likely flooding outcome, but instead the so called worst case scenario.

"It's really what people need to prepare for," Thompson advises.

New upgrades to the weather service radar, which covers most of Southern New England, will also launch this year.

"This will hopefully allow us to catch more of those really small tornadoes that in years past we couldn’t see," says Hayden Frank, another meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Instead of updating every three to five minutes, the radar will update close to every minute.

It doesn't sound like a big change, until you remember the Revere tornado.

That tornado formed in between radar updates, leaving meteorologists in the dark, and the public at risk.

"It was on the ground for just a couple of minutes and by the time the scan came in, it was already off the ground already lifting," Frank says.

Those new upgrades are expected to be ready by this summer.

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