Extreme wind warnings for Hurricane Ida: When does this rare alert get issued?

Weather Blog

(KXAN) — A unique and rarely used warning was issued several times as Hurricane Ida moved through southeastern Louisiana on Sunday — an Extreme Wind Warning.

According to the National Weather Service, an Extreme Wind Warning is issued to provide the public with advance notice of the onset of extreme, sustained surface winds (greater than or equal to 115 miles per hour) in association with a major landfalling hurricane (this is Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

Before Hurricane Ida, the New Orleans National Weather Service Office had never issued Extreme Wind Warnings before. Through 7 p.m. Central Time on Sunday they had issued four separate Extreme Wind Warnings.

Extreme wind warnings are a fairly recent addition to the collection of warnings issued by the National Weather Service. According to this document from the National Weather Service, the need for Extreme Wind Warnings started back in 2004.

“The need for an Extreme Wind Warning emerged in 2004 when Hurricane Charley moved
across the Florida peninsula and over the Orlando metropolitan area with sustained wind speeds in excess
of 100 miles per hour. Because extreme winds were forecast to impact the interior portions of Florida,
NWS forecasters issued Tornado Warnings to provide a final warning for individuals to take immediate
protective actions.”

The same happened in 2005 with Hurricane Katrina and more Tornado warnings were issued for high winds without a tornado expected. This added an element of confusion as there wasn’t an immediate tornado threat, but the warning came through as if there was.

In 2007, after extensive study, Extreme Wind Warnings were created to help warn of winds 115mph or greater associated with Category 3 major landfalling hurricanes. This map shows the National Weather Service offices where Extreme Wind Warnings are allowed to be issued.

Areas where Extreme Wind Warnings may be issued (NWS Graphic)

In 2015 EAS (Emergency Alert System) codes were updated so that an Extreme Wind Warning or EWW would properly alert the public without confusion with a tornado.

Initially Extreme Wind Warnings were only to be used for winds associated with major landfalling hurricanes. More recently there have been discussions to include 115mph winds or greater coming from non-convective systems, downslope winds, and derecho winds, but no changes have been made to Extreme Wind Warnings YET.

The Austin-San Antonio National Weather Service Office is among the group of NWS offices allowed to issue Extreme Wind Warnings.

What to do if an Extreme Wind Warning Is Issued:

According to the National Weather Service: “Extreme Wind Warnings inform the public of the need to take immediate shelter in an interior portion of a well-built structure due to the onset of extremely strong winds. The issuance of an Extreme Wind Warning provides a last and final call for individuals to move to interior portions of sturdy structures in order to minimize injuries or loss of life.”

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