Published: Jun 02, 2010 4:53 PM EDT
Updated: Jun 02, 2010 1:53 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla.-- The National Hurricane Center has made a few important changes you should know about this year.  First, the way watches and warnings are issued is different.  Secondly, the way meteorologists will predict surge associated with a storm has changed.  Both of these changes should give us all more time to prepare.

Tropical storm and hurricane watches will now be issued when conditions are expected in your area within the next 48 hours instead of 36 hours in advance.  Warnings will now be issued when conditions are expected within the next 36 hours instead of 24 hours.  

Wayne Sallade, Director of Charlotte County's Office of Emergency Management tells WINK how this change can help keep our neighbors safe.

"We've got coastal barrier islands that are bridge-less.  I've got people out there September and October that are on the barrier islands that have no way to get off but by boat.  So adding that amount of time is going to be a life-saver one day," Sallade says.

Also different this year:  storm surge will no longer be tied to specific storm categories.  

Starting this year the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale will only categorize wind speed ranges for each of the five hurricane categories.  This will allow the National Hurricane Center and the WINK Skytracker Meteorologists here in Hurricane Central to forecast specific surge and flooding potential regardless of the hurricane's category.

For example, Hurricanes Charley and Wilma did not bring the storm surge that was expected according to the old scale.

With additional watch and warning times and more specific information about storm surge and flooding, we should all be a little safer during hurricane season.