In Thursday’s darkness, as powerful Hurricane Matthew spun off Palm Beach County’s coast, the critical source of information on the frightening Category 4 storm went black for some users.
Beginning at 11 p.m. Thursday, the National Hurricane Center website was unavailable to some people and although the issue was reported immediately, NOAA said in a statement that service wasn’t fully restored until 2 a.m. Friday.
Matthew’s biggest impact to Palm Beach County was felt in the overnight hours Thursday when wind gusts of 67 mph were recorded in Jupiter.
Yet the 11 p.m. advisory from the hurricane center that showed where the storm was located, its forward speed and intensity was unavailable to an unknown number of users.
In a statement, NOAA said that forecasters continued to issue forecasts through normal “dissemination systems and using NWSChat, social media, NOAA Weather Radio, and other information channels to communicate critical forecast information to partners and customers.”
NOAA blamed the temporary disruption in service on a “hardware anomaly” that affected how NOAA sites identify themselves to the web.
The lack of site access depended on the Internet carrier.
“We have determined this was not caused by a security incident,” NOAA said.
But it’s not the first time the organization has had technology problems during critical weather emergencies.
Key National Weather Service systems nationwide went dark in July as tornadoes threatened the central U.S., hail pelted Iowa and thunderstorms blew up in South Florida.
For a four-hour period July 13, emergency alerts either failed to send or were delayed, while radar and current weather observations were only intermittently available to the public.
Some forecasting offices were forced to tweet screen captures of radar images during severe weather, including in the Kansas City area, where meteorologists were providing information to two county fairs hit by high winds.
“Both events received more than an hour heads-up from our office of impending hazardous weather and shut down operations well in advance,” reported the NWS office in Pleasant Hill, Mo. “However, both expressed concern that they couldn’t access radar or warning data from our website.”