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      Hurricane model aims for better storm predictions

      As hurricane season approaches its peak, researchers at Coastal Carolina University are unveiling a new hurricane model.

      CONWAY, S.C. (WACH/AP) -- As hurricane season approaches its peak, researchers at Coastal Carolina University are unveiling a new hurricane model.

      Scientists say the model unveiled Thursday -- called Hurricane Genesis and Outlook, or HUGO for short -- should reduce the so-called cone of uncertainty providing better predictions of where hurricanes will hit and a better estimate of storm surge.

      "We feel very confident that we can improve intensity forecasting in addition to track forecasting," said Dr. Len Pietrafesa. He's a Burroughs and Chapin scholar at CCU.

      Randy Webster, Horry County's Director of Emergency Management, is excited about the new model. The information HUGO will provide will help Webster in deciding how to handle evacuation and other important safety decisions when a storm is approaching.

      "Everything that we can use and every bit of information and data that we can get to help us make the right decision to give the right advice and the right recommendation as a storm is approaching Horry County or South Carolina. I need those tools," he said.

      CCU hopes the model will one day be used by the National Hurricane Center to predict hurricanes. But that's a process that can take years.

      The Hurricane Center's chief of forecast operations James Franklin says models have to be tested extensively, both in seeing if they can accurately track historical storms and forecast current hurricane threats.

      The model is named for Hurricane Hugo, the Category 4 storm that smashed into South Carolina in 1989.

      (CarolinaLive.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)