Forecasters could use better tools

Published Aug 24, 2017 at 4:00pm

Yes, we know. Everyone gripes about the weather. And everyone gripes even more about weather forecasts.

Sometimes that’s something worth griping about. That would be the case with Hurricane Matthew, whose flooding last year killed 27 people in North Carolina -- a higher death toll than in all the other Matthew-stricken states combined. Eleven of those deaths were in the Cape Fear region.

Better forecasting of the storm’s path and a more robust warning system might have saved some of those lives, although it couldn’t have prevented the $10 billion in damage that the storm caused across its East Coast path.

So it was a little disturbing to see the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s final report on Matthew, which was released last week. The report found that “Communicating the extreme threat posed by Matthew was a monumental task for the National Weather Service” and said the hurricane’s heavy rainfall -- nearly 19 inches in some places -- was a surprise. The report also praised the dedication and great performance under duress of the Weather Service staff.

The country needs to invest more in its weather service and in the tools it needs to give better advance warning of dangerous storms. NOAA and the National Weather Service are two places where deep cuts could be deadly.

What happened during Hurricane Matthew should be all the reason we need to increase our investment in weather forecasting.