Kickoff to Hurricane Season 2020: A discussion with Ken Graham, Director of the National Hurricane Center

Episode #1

Disaster Recovery Roundtable host Greg Padgett and Director of the National Hurricane Center Ken Graham discuss preparing for the start of hurricane season. The discussion centers around a recap of last season; how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting the hurricane center’s engagement, operations, and planning for the season; and the new products available for the 2020 season including new forecast tools for emergency managers. Ken also shares his message for the public on preparing for the season.

Key Takeaways

  • [01:00] Ken, what brought you to Miami to lead the National Hurricane Center?
  • [02:00] 2018 Hurricane Season

    As you mentioned, you started right as the 2018 season was beginning, and it was an eventful year with Hurricane Michael impacting the northern Gulf Coast and Florence slamming the Carolinas with historical flooding. What was that like for your first year?

  • [03:38] 2020 Season

    As we approach the 2020 season, it is an unprecedented time for emergency managers, preparing for the start of hurricane season, while still recovering from a pandemic. COVID-19 impacted how you traditionally engaged emergency managers, media, and schools before each season. I understand the annual Hurricane Awareness Tour was cancelled, and you shifted your focus to virtual promotion of risks during Hurricane Awareness Week in May. How has all of this impacted you and your team, and your ability to educate the public? 

  • [06:28] Do you think the pandemic will impact the public’s ability to respond to a hurricane – either by their fears of sheltering or because they do not have the financial means to evacuate or prepare?
  • [08:30] You mentioned Dorian, obviously the biggest storm of last season, you must be satisfied with how the models performed. What is the post-storm assessment on how the hurricane center forecasted that event?
  • [10:30] We have seen so much property development in Florida, especially along the coastline, what if Dorian had not turned northward and impacted the state – how devastating could that have been?
  • [13:30] New Resources & Products

    Typically, in the spring you rely on conferences and other speaking opportunities to engage with emergency managers – of course that did not happen this year due to COVID-19. What new resources and products are you rolling out this year for those in emergency management?

  • [16:00] With this being the first day of Hurricane Season, what are the action items you are asking the public to take this year?
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Ken Graham
Ken Graham
National Hurricane Center

Ken Graham has been the Director of the National Hurricane Center for NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) since 2008. Previously, he led the NWS Weather Forecast Office in the New Orleans/Baton Rouge region as the Meteorologist-in-Charge with responsibility for providing lifesaving forecasts and warnings to people living in the weather-vulnerable Gulf Coast region.

As the meteorologist-in-charge in New Orleans, Graham led his team to serve 22 Louisiana parishes and eight Mississippi counties, and directly supported seven major (billion-dollars-plus) weather events since 2008. He implemented innovative impact-based decision support services during Hurricanes Gustav, Ike, Isaac, and Nate, as well as Tropical Storm Cindy, the Baton Rouge Flood of 2016, Mississippi River floods, and several major tornado outbreaks. Graham worked to revamp the operational focus to working side-by-side with emergency managers and other decision makers during emergencies, and each year led nearly 100 training and exercise sessions with local, state, and federal decision makers to prepare for hurricanes. For these efforts, Graham was honored with the Louisiana Governor’s Emergency Service Award in 2014.

During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, Graham led the cooperative intergovernmental engagement effort for NWS in the region and sustained emergency response meteorologist deployments for more than five months while issuing more than 4,300 spot forecasts. His office received the National Weather Association’s Operational Meteorology Award, Department of Commerce Gold Medal for Decision Support Services, and was the National Weather Museum’s Meteorologist of the Year for support during the oil spill.



For more information about the National Hurricane Center, visit