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NOAA's NWS Focus
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May 12, 2003 View Printer Friendly Version
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CONTENTS formating spacer graphic
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- Working Together to Save Lives:
Early May Delivers Nation's Busiest Tornado Outbreak in Many Years
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- Comments Sought on New NWS Strategic Plan formating spacer graphic
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- NOAA, EPA Announce Plans for Air Quality Forecasts formating spacer graphic
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- NWS Survey of Emergency Managers Yields High Marks formating spacer graphic
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- NWS Testing Improved English and New Spanish Voices for NOAA Weather Radio Broadcasts formating spacer graphic
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- On The Calendar formating spacer graphic
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Green Bay, WI, WGBA-TV meteorologist Cameron Moreland of the local NBC affi

Green Bay, WI, WGBA-TV meteorologist Cameron Moreland of the local NBC affiliate did his weather show live from the Green Bay Weather Forecast Office recently during a 6 p.m. newscast. Senior Forecaster Tim Kieckbusch is in the background of this photo. Forecast and warning operations were highlighted during the show by Moreland and Warning Coordination Meteorologist Jeff Last.

 


Working Together to Save Lives:
Early May Delivers Nation's Busiest Tornado Outbreak in Many Years

The week of May 4-10, 2003, brought widespread tornado outbreaks affecting 19 states. The President declared four states as disaster areas (Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma).

About 395 tornadoes occurred during this period, according to Storm Prediction Center preliminary statistics on the center's web page. The week's total exceeds the previous most active week of May 12-18, 1995, when there were 173 tornadoes. More than 40 people were killed May 4 in Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. There were few fatalities in subsequent events, and warning lead times appear to be good for all of the past week's significant events.

On May 9, 2003, NWS Deputy Director John Jones, assisted by Bill Bunting, Meteorologist-In-Charge, Fort Worth, TX, Weather Forecast Office and Dan McCarthy, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, NWS Storm Prediction Center, briefed the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee on the week's tornado outbreak.

In his remarks to members of Congress, Jones emphasized that NWS employees on the front lines in forecast offices were "working non-stop through the week's dangerous weather events." He also pointed out that "the infusion of new science and technology along with a cadre of experienced forecasters in the field" helped the NWS issue warnings that may have saved many lives over the past week. Jones added that NOAA partnerships with the research community, federal, state, and local governments, and with the broadcast media, made it possible for timely NWS warnings to give people time to take shelter.

During the week, Weather Forecast Offices issued 4,867 warnings: 1,090 for tornadoes and 683 for flash floods. The 908 warnings issued on May 6, 2003, were the most issued in one day (records back to 1986). The 893 warnings issued on May 10 and 858 warnings issued on May 5 were the third and fourth most active days.

The NWS deployed seven national Quick Response Teams (QRTs) of wind damage experts to investigate damage that appeared to be greater than F3. Five of the week's tornadoes are confirmed as F4s, and two others are under investigation. (One of the recommendations of the April 28, 2002, La Plata, MD, Tornado Service Assessment was to develop a national QRT to determine final ratings for all tornadoes suspected to be F4 or F5.)

A service assessment team begins reviewing NWS performance during the extended outbreak of severe weather this week. Leading the team is Jim Purpura, the Meteorologist-In-Charge of the Corpus Christi, TX, Weather Forecast Office. The team will complete its report in about 90 days.

Here are some highlights for the week, compiled by the Awareness Branch of the NWS Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services:

  • Sunday afternoon and night tornadoes did significant damage in at least 7 Kansas and 39 Missouri counties. Pierce City, MO, was demolished. Another tornado on the ground for 65 miles in western Tennessee hit Jackson (Madison County). Lead time for Madison County was 13 minutes. Flooding was reported in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.
  • On Tuesday, tornadoes did extensive damage in De Soto (Jefferson County), MO, and in portions of southern Illinois and western Kentucky. More flooding in Tennessee and northern portions of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Significant flooding reported in Huntsville, AL.
  • On Wednesday, supercells moved across northern Mississippi to western Georgia. Flooding occurred around Birmingham and wind damage was reported in the Atlanta area.
  • On Thursday, more than 100 were injured and 300 homes were destroyed in Moore (Cleveland County), OK (tornado lead time 21 minutes). Additional tornadoes occurred in northern and eastern Kansas with Lawrence especially hard hit. Seventeen tornado warnings were issued in this area with a average lead time of 25 minutes.
  • Multiple tornadoes occurred over several hours Friday night in Oklahoma. In the Oklahoma City area a tornado damaged a Xerox plant and a several schools.Five injuries were reported. Preliminary average lead times for the tornado warnings were 28 minutes.
  • On Saturday, flooding occurred in the Cincinnati, OH, area (southern Hamilton County, OH, and northern Kenton County, KY). Approximately 100 people were evacuated.

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Comments Sought on New NWS Strategic Plan

A draft National Weather Service Strategic Plan for FiscalYears 2003 through 2008 is ready for comment. The theme of this plan, "Working Together to Save Lives," reflects NWS's commitment to work closely with our external partners and internal Line Offices to help support NOAA's strategic goals.

"We are making the Plan available for NWS employee comments now - a public comment period on the NWS plan, along with the plans of all of our sister line offices in NOAA, will follow soon," said Ed Johnson, Director, NWS Strategic Planning and Policy Office.

Johnson said the NWS Strategic Plan was written to conform to the substance and structure of NOAA's recently completed Strategic Plan, "New Priorities for the 21st Century." A copy of the NOAA plan can be found at http://www.osp.noaa.gov/docs/NOAA_Final_Strategic_Plan_March31st.pdf.

All NOAA Line and Staff offices were asked to present a plan which directly identifies how they will support and carry out NOAA's strategic goals and objectives. The NWS plan lists specific NWS activities supporting NOAA's goals, and also lists critical partners who help us carry out these activities.

"In writing the NWS plan, we considered all of the NWS input provided into the NOAA strategic planning process and all of the input that stakeholders provided at NOAA-sponsored meetings," Johnson explained. "Even so, now is the critical time when our draft is being made available both internally and externally for further comment."

You can view the new NWS Strategic Plan at www.weather.gov/sp/newNWSplan.htm . Send comments to john.sokich@noaa.gov by June 6, 2003.

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NOAA, EPA Announce Plans for Air Quality Forecasts

NOAA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a partnership recently to develop a new forecasting model to establish a consistent national, numerical system of forecasting ozone and particular matter.

The tool will provide an Air Quality Index in daily weather forecasts, and will report a more accurate warning of the days in which outdoor activities could prove to be a health risk.

In the first phase of the collaboration, EPA and NOAA will produce a model that provides daily forecasts for ozone in the northeastern United States by September 2004. Within five years, following initial deployment and evaluation, the enhanced forecasting system will expand to the whole Nation. The air quality forecasting model should help forecasters make particulate matter predictions and provide a four-day forecast within 10 years.

Read the full NOAA-EPA news release here.

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NWS Survey of Emergency Managers Yields High Marks

The NWS is doing a good job of meeting the needs of the emergency management community, according to a recently completed customer satisfaction survey.

A survey conducted with Emergency Managers yielded an NWS score of 80 (out of 100) for customer satisfaction. That score is ten points higher than the 2002 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) for the overall Federal Government. This web-based survey, conducted by The Claes Fornell International (CFI) Group, collected 479 interviews from January 29 - February 17, 2003.

"The NWS Emergency Management segment is performing very well," said Stephan Kuhl, the NWS National Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) Program Manager. "This benchmark provides us with a snapshot of how we are doing and areas where we can improve. It's important to measure customer satisfaction and find ways to deliver the best products possible."

The NWS identified eight activities (called satisfaction drivers) for this survey. These are areas where the NWS regularly interfaces with Emergency Managers. The satisfaction drivers were: product delivery, local information, hazardous weather, public weather information, winter weather information, hydrologic information, fire weather information, and marine/tropical information. Each of these areas was measured by a series of questions or attributes that were specific to that particular area of service.

The categories of hazardous weather information and winter weather information both received a score of 82. However, scores for product delivery (72) and local information (75) were slightly lower than the other categories.

To improve the overall NWS customer satisfaction index score, CFI suggested that the NOAA's NWS Focus on improving local information weather products and services, particularly finding ways to improve perceptions of NWS zone and state weather forecasts' usefulness with Emergency Managers. CFI recommended soliciting suggestions from Emergency Mangers for ways to make the NWS area forecast discussions more useful in supporting their operations and decision-making.

Three other NWS segments are scheduled to be surveyed using agency-specific activities and outcomes: aviation, marine/tropical, and media.

ACSI uses a multi-equation, cause and effect econometric model to measure customer satisfaction. NWS's Customer Satisfaction Index score of 80 was derived from three questions in the survey:

1) How satisfied are you overall with the products and services provided by the NWS? 2) To what extent have the products and services provided by the NWS fallen short of or exceeded your expectations? 3) How well does the NWS compare with an ideal provider of weather products and services?

Scores for the most recent ACSI results, as well as bench marking information and other useful resources are available at www.customerservice.gov and www.theacsi.org.

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NWS Testing Improved English and New Spanish Voices for NOAA Weather Radio Broadcasts

Three NWS Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) are testing new NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) Console Replacement/Voice Improvement Processor software which introduces a Spanish voice and improves upon existing voices. The test is scheduled to conclude on May 23, 2003, and nationwide roll-out could occur during mid-summer if the new technology receives positive reviews, according to Lawrence Lehmann, Voice Improvement Project Manager.

The three WFO test sites are: Miami, FL; San Diego, CA; and San Juan, PR. Major changes to the new software include: adding a Spanish voice (Javier) for audio conversion of incoming Spanish text messages into voice files for NWR broadcast; a new male English voice (Tom replaces Craig), and an improved Female English voice (Donna); a new speech engine that improves the voice quality of all voices; the ability to customize word pronunciations by voice; and, the ability to adjust the speed of word pronunciation by voice.

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Take a look at other NWS news, as submitted for the NOAA Weekly Report

Click here to take a look at NOAA-wide employee news, as posted in the latest issue of AccessNOAA

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