A hurricane is approaching land in Florida, the Gulf Coast or the Atlantic Coast and the meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center are on TV saying you can expect a storm surge of 15 to 20 feet and rainfall of 10 inches.
The storm comes through, and areas that were in the direct path of that hurricane experienced three or four inches of rain and a storm surge of five feet. Then everyone laughs at the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service.
That's something that the weather service believes is a thing of the past thanks to Doppler radar and other technical advances in recent years. At the National Weather Service office in Jacksonville, which does the forecasting for most of North Central Florida, the Doppler radar was installed when the meteorologists moved into their new facility in January.
JACKSONVILLE -- Doppler radar, automated surface operations systems and new computers. They're all bringing the National Weather Service into the 21st century.
But all this new equipment is only as good as the weather service's ability to get the word to the public. Without that, it doesn't do much good for a handful of meteorologists in an office in Jacksonville to know there's a tornado getting ready to touch down in Hawthorne.
Steve Letro, meteorologist-in-charge at the National Weather Service office in Jacksonville, has an interesting perspective on notifying the public.
``It's not our job,'' he said. ``With the exception of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio, it's not our job to notify the public. It's our job to notify the media and emergency managers.''
But the system works, Letro said, because in the last few years, the media has become aware of how critical the need is for the public to know about severe weather and to know it quickly.
The stories have become legendary among hurricane watchers and emergency planners.
Before Hurricane Andrew, most emergency plans consisted of either packing up and getting out or holing up and hunkering down.
But as Andrew's Category 4 winds destroyed much of the southern tip of the Florida peninsula -- including some areas that were considered inland -- a couple of things became apparent: First, it was not clear who should get out. Second, if everyone who wanted to get out tried, there would be gridlock on Florida's highways.
The other glaring flaw with the plan was that recovery was not part of it. Whether you tried to ride it out or left and returned, in the face of the Andrew's destruction, no one was prepared for recovery and rebuilding.
James Lee Witt, who since Andrew was appointed director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency by President Clinton, has described the situation this way:
``Florida had the best emergency-management plan in the country. And it didn't work.''
But then came a new Florida Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan.
``Florida still has the best emergency-management plan in the country,'' Witt said. ``And this one does work.''
Joe Myers, the state's emergency manager, is responsible for implementing that plan. He believes that it went through its toughest test last summer. And he believes it passed.