Produced by the
Urban Science Initiative Inc.
501 c3 Non-Profit
Robert Chester Sheets (born June 7, 1937) is a meteorologist who served as the director of the National Hurricane Center from 1987 to 1995. He was born in Marion, Indiana. He is well remembered for numerous interviews given from the Hurricane Center during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Sheets also was a member and eventual director in Project Storm Fury, an attempt to modify hurricanes with silver iodide. Since retiring in 1995, Sheets has continued his relationship with the media, becoming a special-situation hurricane analyst with ABC network affiliates in Florida. He has also co-authored a book on hurricane information and stories.
The National Hurricane Center-Past, Present, and Future
ROBERT C. SHEETS
National Hurricane Center. Coral Gables. Florida
(Manuscript received 5 January 1990, in final form 15 February 1990)
The National Hunicane Center (NHC) is one of three national centers operated by the National Weather
Service (NWS). It has national and international responsibilities for the North Atlantic and eastern North
Pacific tropical and subtropical belts (including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea) for tropical analyses,
marine and aviation forecastsa, nd the tropical cyclone forecasta nd warning programsf or the region. Its roots
date back to the I 870s, and it is now in the forefront of the NWS modernization program. Numerous changes
and improvements have taken place in observational and forecast guidance tools and in the warning and
responsep rocesso ver the years. In spite of all thesei mprovements,t he loss of property and the potential for
losso f life due to tropical cyclonesc ontinuest o increasera pidly. Forecastsa re improving, but not nearly as fast
as populations are increasing in hunicane prone areas such as the United States East and Gulf Coast banier
islands. The result is that longer and longer lead times are required for communities to prepare for hunicanes.
The sea land over lake surge from hurricanes (SLOSH) model is used to illustrate areas ofinnudation for
the Galveston/Houston,T exas;N ew Orleans,L ouisiana; southwestR orida; and the Atlantic City, New Jersey
areasu nder selectedh unicane scenarios.T heser esultsi ndicatet he requirementf or lengthy evacuationt imes.
The forecasta nd warning processis then illustrated, starting with tropical analysesn, umerical guidance,t he
meteorological/hydrological coordination of the forecast, and finally the warning coordination and response
process.E xamplesa re usedt o illustratet he sensitivityo f the warninga nd responsep rocestso preplanning based
upon SLOSH model results, the coordination between NWS and local and state officials, and the critical role
played by the media for motivating people to take the desired action in an orderly fashion. These examples
iUustrateh ow this processw orkedt o nearp erfectiond uring HurricaneH ugo, but wasd isruptedi n the Galveston/
Houston area by conflicting information reaching local officials and the public during Hurricane Gilbert.
Finally, a brief look into the futurei s attempted,w ith emphasisu pon new observings ystemsn, ext generation
numerical modelsa nd expectedim provementsi n tropical cyclonet rack and intensity forecastsa nd the warning
processa t landfall and inland. The next generationw eatherr adar (NEXRAD) systemsin the modernizeda nd
restructured NWS are expected to playa major role in improving short-term warnings of flash floods, high
winds, and possible tornadoes as hurricanes move inland and start to decay.
© 2016 USI Inc. A production of the Urban Science Initiative Inc. a 501 c3 non-profit. San Antonio, Texas • 210-508-4454