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Pay attention to forecasted hurricane impacts, not just category, say Wilmington meteorologists

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Vince Winkel
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WHQR
Flooding in downtown Wilmington during Hurricane Florence.

National Weather Service meteorologists said the ‘above normal’ hurricane season is already active with Hurricane Agatha hitting the Yucatan Peninsula. These experts said to focus on the impacts of the storm rather than focusing solely on the category designation.

Related: NWS Wilmington lead meteorologist says Cape Fear region “long overdue” for major hurricane

Matt Scalora, the lead meteorologist for the National Weather Service Wilmington, said to pay attention to rainfall, flooding, and storm surge — not just the category number or wind strength.

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NWS Wilmington/NOAA
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Matt Scalora of NWS Wilmington said this demonstrates how the category designation doesn't include impacts like storm surges and damages.

“We just didn’t want that to be the only thing that folks are focusing on because a lot of times you can have heavy rainfall and flooding even from a tropical storm compared to a hurricane. There’s a lot of variables — a lot going on with every storm,” said Scalora.

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NWS Wilmington/NOAA
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Matt Scalora of National Weather Service Wilmington said tropical storms should be taken seriously, as they can cause major impacts like storm surges and excessive rainfall.

Experts also note that the cone the public sees predicting the main path of the storm does not mean the impacts will stay within that zone.

“Especially for something like heavy rain where you could have flash floodings several hundred miles away from the center of the storm,” said Scalora.

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NWS Wilmington/NOAA
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Matt Scalora of NWS said that the cone illustrates the central path of the storm; it's not an impact zone.

He also said it’s important to go to trusted sources like the National Weather Service Wilmington when it comes to both impacts and the path of the storm, as they rely on probability models. He said to avoid 'deterministic' or a one ‘worst-case scenario’ path prediction model.