Projected movement of recent Tropical Storm Alex. (Source: US National Weather Service Tampa Bay Florida Facebook page.)

By Nick Edwards

As the summer approaches, so does the familiar hurricane season. To most Floridians, this means potential days off school or work and sleeping in the closet, but to the National Weather Service (NWS), this means working around the clock. From June 1 through Wednesday, November 30, these weather experts work tirelessly, tracking hurricanes as they move toward Florida.

The National Weather Service’s office in Ruskin is the epicenter of special weather forecasts in the Tampa Bay area. In fact, according to meteorologist Dan Noah, its office takes care of west central and southwest Florida.

Using the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, National Weather Service meteorologists are able to predict hurricane intensity days prior to impact. Based solely on maximum sustained wind speed, these storms are given quantified rankings 1-5, which translate to estimates of property damage.

Once a hurricane is spotted moving towards Florida, a hurricane watch is issued by the NWS. This is typically done at least 60 hours before expected impact. From that point on, meteorologists keep a close eye on any changes in speed and direction. Noah explained that they will even “camp out at the office during the hurricane, totaling sometimes up to 64 hours.”

During this time, the WX4TOR radio station is used to facilitate communication regarding play-by-play updates of the hurricane’s status. Every three hours, a Tropical Cyclone Public Advisory is issued, informing the public of these updates.

For more information on hurricanes and NWS recommended tactics for effectively riding them out, visit

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