A new video from The Weather Channel shows in real time the danger of flood waters already rising in parts of the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence starts battering the coast. The storm is moving slowly and is anticipated to bring deadly storm surges to the region as well as torrential rains. “That’s a recipe for a flooding disaster,” meteorologist Marshall Shepherd told The Verge in an interview on Monday.
The National Hurricane Center is predicting storm surges anywhere from two to more than 11 feet high. But it’s hard to visualize what those numbers actually mean for someone near the water. The National Hurricane Center tried to make it clear with a cartoon graphic that shows rainbow colored water levels rising over the heads of a family in a house.
The graphic is more effective than numbers, or even maps. But The Weather Channel takes the visuals a step further using mixed reality that show the waters surrounding the on-screen meteorologists, including Greg Postel and Ericka Navarro. The flood rises above their heads as the wind howls and floating cars slosh at the surface.
The mixed reality graphics, created in partnership with augmented reality company The Future Group, harness the Unreal Engine — a popular video game development platform. “Rather than creating effects and rendering them in post-production, the process used to create visuals for most films, the Unreal Engine builds effects in real time,” Ren LaForme reported for Poynter when The Weather Channel unveiled the tech in a tornado demo.
The Weather Channel has since used the immersive reality for an in-studio lightning explainer, and now, to visualize Hurricane Florence’s floods. “The business that we’re in is safety,” Michael Potts, The Weather Channel’s vice president of design, told The Verge in an interview. “The weather is a visceral, physical thing, and we’re trying to recreate that in the most realistic way possible.”
On screen, the water towers over the meteorologist as fish swim by — adding emphasis to her words that Hurricane Florence’s floods will threaten lives. “If you find yourself here, please get out,” she says. “If you’re told to go, you need to go.”