Five days ago, the US National Hurricane Center predicted the spot where Hurricane Florence would make landfall. Their prediction turned out to be within two miles of where Florence actually touched down this Friday.
As Weather Channel meteorologist Stephanie Abrams put it, storm-forecast precision “doesn’t get much closer than that.”
Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, at 7:15am on Friday morning.
Hurricanes can be chaotic systems, extremely difficult (and dangerous) to track accurately in real time, let alone predict. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US agency under which the National Hurricane Center operates, includes an elite team of pilots who fly directly into hurricanes to be able to gather data to understand the intensity and direction of hurricanes.
That makes a two-mile error five days in advance an astounding feat—as Axios points out, the average five-day error is closer to 250 miles.
The forecast gave residents nearly a week of lead time to understand if they should evacuate or not. (Still, many people who were advised to evacuate have chosen to ride out the storm instead.)
That doesn’t mean every hurricane forecast from now on will be as good; but overall, the trend is that the National Hurricane Center is getting better and better at predicting where a storm will make landfall farther and farther in advance: