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    Hurricane forecast gains 2 days

    Compiled from Times wires
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published March 11, 2003

    MIAMI -- The public will get five-day forecasts for hurricanes instead of the three-day predictions used since 1964, the National Weather Service announced Monday.

    Forecasters say improved technology now allows for accurate, longer-range outlooks for the increasingly crowded coastlines. This will give residents, fishermen -- and anyone else who needs it -- two more days to prepare.

    The change comes after a two-year internal test and begins in the upcoming hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Officials say improved technology lets meteorologists make extended forecasts that are as accurate as three-day predictions were in the 1980s.

    The five-day warning will be most useful to fishing boats or the U.S. Navy, which may need more than three days to prepare for a storm.

    The extra two days also will give more people time to buy supplies such as plywood, batteries and bottled water, officials said, especially over the weekends when many people might not follow storm news as closely.

    The National Hurricane Center, an arm of the National Weather Service, issues daily updates on storm formation during hurricane season, with those advisories becoming more frequent as storms approach land.

    "This five-day forecast provides a valuable planning and preparedness tool and is a tangible step forward in our efforts to protect lives and property, and enhance the U.S. economy," James R. Mahoney, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Monday.

    Craig Fugate, director of Florida's emergency management division, said extended advisories won't change county evacuation plans. He said most evacuation orders aren't given until watches or warnings are issued, and those usually come no sooner than two days before a storm hits.

    The three- and five-day forecasts don't track exact storm paths. The main benefit of these forecasts is to alert residents to begin hurricane preparations, Fugate said.

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