Here’s what it means to be in the forecast cone

Be prepared, not scared

ORLANDO, Fla. – You wake up one morning and see the forecast. Your region is in the cone. But what does that mean?

It’s not a time to panic, but to pay attention.

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Developed by the National Hurricane Center and commonly referred to as the cone of uncertainty, it is used to show the projected path of a tropical depression, tropical storm or hurricane.

Once the storm develops, the cone shows the forecast for the next five days. It is important to note that the cone is the forecast for the center of the storm, and any impacts will be felt well outside of the cone.

It is also important to not focus only on the center of the cone as the purpose of the cone is to convey the uncertainty of the forecast.

You will notice the cone starts out narrow and gradually becomes wider toward day four and five. As you go further into the future, forecast confidence naturally goes down.

Here’s how you should handle the cone.

5 days away from potential impacts (tip of the cone)

  • Cone has a 400-miles spread in potential landfall
  • Start thinking about how you will get prepared if storm tracks through
  • Complete tasks that take multiple days (fill medications, clean outside property etc.)
  • Know that the forecast cone will likely change from the initial issuance

4 days away from potential impacts

  • Understand the range of outcomes
  • Keep in mind there is still considerable uncertainty in the final track of the storm
  • Models continue the windshield wiper effect, bouncing back and forth

3 days away from potential impacts

  • Uncertainty in storm track decreases
  • Identify potential trouble spots from high winds and heavy rain
  • Start preparing for impacts
  • Listen to officials for evacuation orders

2 days away from potential impacts

  • High confidence in potential impacts
  • Watches issued By National Hurricane Center
  • Start to wrap up preparations
  • Listen to officials for evacuation orders
  • Hurricane Center issues warnings when conditions are expected within 36 hours

24 hours away from impacts

  • Preparations should be complete
  • Evacuations should be complete
  • It will soon be unsafe to travel
  • Watch for wobbles or minor changes (this can be the difference between major and minor impacts)

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About the Author:

Jonathan Kegges joined the News 6 team in June 2019 as the Weekend Morning Meteorologist. Jonathan comes from Roanoke, Virginia where he covered three EF-3 tornadoes and deadly flooding brought on by Hurricanes Florence and Michael.