When it comes to hurricanes, knowledge is power. The more we know about a storm, the better we can prepare for the onslaught. But where does all the data come from, and what how has forecasting technology changed since the 1900's?
As far as the technology is concerned, back in those days all we really had were weather balloons. The balloons were sent up into the atmosphere at a few locations, and forecasters used that info to estimate where storm systems were and to estimate steering currents in the upper atmosphere that would guide hurricanes.
The only way it would really be accurate is if the pattern stayed the same for a few days.
In the event of the 1900 storm, the pattern changed. An area of high pressure developed and blocked the storm from moving the way it was originally going. Today, we have computer models that look at the current upper air pattern and they have millions of formulas to extrapolate how the atmosphere will look in the days ahead, including cyclogenesis and anti-cyclogenesis equations (formation of low pressure and high pressure systems, respectively)
In other words, back then, we only had limited current information to look at and if the pattern changed, then the track of the hurricane would change. Now we have computer models that can predict changes in the pattern, thus they are much more accurate in predicting future hurricane tracks.
We also have come a long way with satellite imagery. We can tell now when a storm forms, how strong it is and we do not have to wait until it hits land, or some random ship out at sea happens to run into it.
Reconnaissance aircraft is also used, the planes can fly into a storm and give us a better idea of the conditions in and around the storm at all layers of the atmosphere.