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NOAA's NWS Focus
December 16, 2002
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CONTENTS formating spacer graphic
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-Director's Dialog: Wind Speed and Wind Damage Reports formating spacer graphic
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-Collaboration Plays Big Role in Forecasting First Eastern Winter Storm formating spacer graphic
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-Super Typhoon Pongsona Hammers Guam Forecast Office formating spacer graphic
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-NOAA, NWS Honor Van Wert, OH, Heroes For Saving Lives Through StormReady formating spacer graphic
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-Working Together to Save Lives: First NWS Hydrologic Program Managers Conference Unites, Focuses Water Experts formating spacer graphic
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-El Niņo Still on Track to Influence U.S. Winter formating spacer graphic
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-Focus On the Field: Reconditioning Center Veteran's Career Spans Massive Technological Changes formating spacer graphic
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David Reynolds (far right), Meteorologist-in-Charge of the NWS Weather Fore

David Reynolds (far right), Meteorologist-in-Charge of the NWS Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Monterey, CA, recently presented a length of service award to staff at Lick Observatory at Mount Hamilton near San Jose, CA, for 120 continuous years as a Cooperative Observer station. With Reynolds from left to right are Remington Stone, Director of operations at Lick Observatory, and COOP observers Lotus Baker and Wendy Hansen of the observatory. The staff at the observatory record the daily high and low temperature, rainfall and snowfall atop Mount Hamilton. At the end of the month, this data is sent to the local NWS Forecast Office in Monterey, CA, for quality control and then forwarded to NOAA's National Climate Data Center where it is incorporated into the official climate record of the United States.

 

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

Director's Dialog: Wind Speed and Wind Damage Reports

General Kelly,

In our opinion, the NWS needs to develop consistent and complete guidelines for what types of wind damage qualify as severe. Too many offices (including this one) use very marginal damage reports (the classic...power lines blown down) or wind speed estimates by spotters when most, if not all, spotters may not be adequately trained to accurately estimate wind speeds. When one sees reports of 60-65 mph winds by a "trained" spotter and there is no significant damage reported, then a flag should go up. Is this really severe? We are more than willing to accept such a report to verify a warning. In some cases we make several (8-10) phone calls to get a marginally severe report all in the name of verification. Is it a statistically sound practice to not make the same effort in counties where warnings were not issued and where marginal storms existed? We urge you to consider constructing a well written and well thought out and statistically sound national directive would take out some of the subjectivity where severe wx [weather] verification is concerned.

Respectfully,
Drew Albert and Wes Browning NWS Forecast Office Springfield, MO

Accurate wind speed and wind damage reports are important. Our reports are often the only historical record of severe weather events. I share your desire to ensure we use consistent and statistically sound guidance in determining which reports are severe.

We will publish National Directive System Instruction 10-1605 "Storm Data Preparation" by early January. This instruction will provide guidance on Storm Data reports, and include guidelines for severe wind damage reports. A team of Warning Coordination Meteorologists wrote this instruction to ensure our guidance was based on field tested, consistent and statistically sound practices. Implementation nationwide should help reduce the subjectivity in severe weather assessments.

Jack Kelly, NWS Director

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Collaboration Plays Big Role in Forecasting First Eastern Winter Storm

The collaborative Winter Weather Experiment - a joint venture between National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), Eastern Region, Central Region, and the Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services - helped NWS forecasters provide outstanding service for the first significant weather system of the 2002-2003 winter season in the eastern United States December 4-5, 2002, according to Dean Gulezian, Director, Eastern Region. "The WWE was especially helpful in unifying our winter weather warnings with a clear, consistent message for our customers and partners on this high impact event," said Gulezian.

This winter weather system produced a large area of freezing rain across portions of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Ice accumulations of one quarter to one half inch were common across the area. The highest amounts of ice accumulation, one half to one inch, occurred in the central Piedmont of North Carolina. This resulted in numerous downed trees and power lines in North Carolina and South Carolina. In total, 1.3 million customers lost power during the event. Meanwhile, a swath of 4 to 8 inches of snow fell from eastern West Virginia through northern Virginia northeastward across the Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston metropolitan areas. The highest snowfall total of 11 inches was recorded in Mount Hope, NY.

From the special weather statements and winter weather outlooks issued several days in advance to the timely posting of winter weather watches, warnings, and advisories, our partners and customers were well informed on the threats posed by this storm system, according to Gulezian. For example, transportation departments in the Carolinas and Virginia began preparing for the event on Tuesday, December 4, dispatching crews to treat the primary roads/highways. Power utility companies in North Carolina pre-staged and organized internal and external resources to deal with anticipated power outages across the area. Preliminary estimates indicate that the average regional NWS winter weather warning lead time for this event was about 17 hours, well above the NWS national goal.

Gulezian said the WWE contributed to the NWS success. The experiment began last year with NCEP and a handful of Eastern Region offices. Promising results encouraged Eastern Region to expand the WWE this year to include all of its Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) - 23 total; eight Central Region WFOs have also joined the experiment for FY03. In addition to providing an overview of numerical model performance, the WWE provides an opportunity for NCEP to test graphical guidance from the Short Range Ensemble Forecast System (SREF) for application to winter weather forecasting, and to explore its collaborative role with WFOs in the National Digital Forecast Database era. The WWE also produces graphical guidance to show the possibility of exceeding watch and warning snowfall thresholds. Actual WWE collaboration occurs through an Internet-based chat room and twice-daily conference calls.

At the end of the 2002-2003 winter season, the NWS will compare this years' winter weather watch and warning program verification with last year's to evaluate the success of the WWE program.


Super Typhoon Pongsona Hammers Guam Forecast Office

Communications have been restored to the Guam Weather Forecast Office (WFO) following a heavy battering the island took from Super Typhoon Pongsona December 8, 2002. (A typhoon is a tropical cyclone occurring west of the International Dateline; a super typhoon has winds exceeding 155 miles per hour.)

Hurricane force winds and heavy rainfall hammered the Hall Islands of northern Chuuk State on Friday, December 6 (Chuuk Local Time), and the Islands of Guam and Rota on Sunday, December 8 (Guam Local Time). Sustained winds of 100 to 150 mph with higher gusts occurred on the Islands of Guam and Rota for periods up to six hours within the eyewall of Typhoon Pongsona.

Media reports indicate widespread devastation, and structural and infrastructure damage including power, phone, and water outages on Guam and Rota. All NWS staff and families are accounted for, including two employees were away on temporary duty during the storm.

According to NWS Pacific Region Headquarters Director Jeff Ladouce, the impact to Guam was much worse than from Typhoon Chata'an in July, and even Super Typhoon Paka in December 1997.

Due to communications failure, WFO Honolulu, HI, provided full-service backup for WFO Guam for about 30 hours between December 9 and 10, 2002. Honolulu provided backup again when communications failed a second time. Solar-powered satellite phone is the only way Pacific Region Headquarters has been able to stay in contact with WFO Guam during these periods.

WFO Guam was built with typhoons in mind, constructed with reinforced steel and concrete, and equipped with typhoon shutters on the windows and doors, two covered generators, and water storage. According to reports from Pacific Region, WFO Guam sustained mostly external damage, but essentially survived intact, and the alternate emergency generator is working. One tower with an upper-air target antenna was bent and fell to the ground, and the bottom two feet of the upper air inflation building's roll-up doors were torn off. An office water spigot was turned on by the storm, releasing about 5,000 gallons of stored water. The remaining 5,000 gallons in the on-site storage tank is required for restrooms, ready room, and the hydrogen generator water purifier.

The Guam Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) is operating, but communications between the WFO and the WSR-88D Doppler Radar were down at last report. The radar appears from a distance to have survived intact, according to reports from WFO Guam. The Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS) is operating, except for wind measurements, which are being backed up.

"This is a sobering reminder that our employees who work hard to keep their communities safe can also be victims of severe weather," said Ladouce. "Our people are having trouble getting simple supplies like food, and having trouble getting to work because of the gas situation." Nearly all employees' homes were damaged by the storm: broken windows, roofing damage, downed trees, etc. All homes sustained water damage and the majority are without water. Those with generators have power, but fuel availability is a major concern. One employee's apartment is totally unlivable. Fuel reserves are unavailable because the fuel storage farm is on fire. Fuel was restricted for emergencies, so no gas is being sold to the public. Fuel is needed for generators until power can be restored to the island. With the island-wide power outage, generators are crucial for refrigeration and communication (radio, TV), to charge batteries needed for flashlights and cell phones, and many other uses.

Here's a link to some of the latest news on Guam.

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NOAA, NWS Honor Van Wert, OH, Heroes For Saving Lives Through StormReady

NOAA and the NWS honored Van Wert, OH, community heroes at a December 10, 2002, public awards ceremony for their actions, which saved countless lives during a tornado outbreak that claimed four lives and injured 26 on November 10, 2002.

The first-ever StormReady Community Hero Award was presented to Van Wert County Emergency Manager Rick McCoy, County Commissioner Gary Adams, and Van Wert City Mayor Stephen Gehres for establishing the county's StormReady program with the NWS. Van Wert Cinemas assistant manager Scott Shaffer was given the NOAA NWS Public Service Award for ushering moviegoers to safety after hearing an NWS tornado warning.

"NOAA feels a great compassion for all those people of Van Wert who lost their homes to this destructive tornado," said Timothy R.E. Keeney, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Atmospheres for the Department of Commerce. "At the same time, we must be grateful that due to the timely forecast of the National Weather Service and the prompt and heroic action of the emergency management community and others, the tragedy was not worse in terms of lives lost."

"Van Wert citizens will be putting their lives back together for a long time after this destructive tornado," said McCoy. "But at least, thanks to StormReady and the lead time provided by the weather forecasts, we were able to save many, many lives." Alerted by a warning from the local StormReady radio alert system, Shaffer and his staff evacuated more than 50 adults and children from the theater just minutes before the powerful tornado tore off the building's roof and tossed cars into the screen and front seats where kids and parents had been watching 'The Santa Clause 2.'

"The power of nature is an awesome thing," Shaffer said. "Thank God and a good staff we had enough time to get people to safety."

Mike Sabones, Meteorologist-in-Charge, and Steve Eddy, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, of the Northern Indiana Weather Forecast Office in Syracuse, IN, worked with state and county officials for nearly a year to bring Van Wert to StormReady status.

"This is a real success story for the Weather Service, NOAA Weather Radio, and StormReady programs," said Sabones. "It's a case where a timely and accurate weather warning activated the system, allowing people to promptly respond, saving lives."

Presenting the awards were Keeney and NWS Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy. More details on the Van Wert tornado are available in the November 18, 2002, issue of NOAA's NWS Focus.

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Working Together to Save Lives:
First NWS Hydrologic Program Managers Conference Unites, Focuses Water Experts

The first National Hydrologic Program Managers (HPM) Conference, was hosted by the NWS Office of Climate, Water, and Weather Services (OCWWS) in New Orleans, LA, the week of December 3-6, 2002.

"We wanted to get everyone together, all of the service hydrologists and hydrology focal points at the Weather Forecast Offices, River Forecast Centers, and Regional and National Headquarters," said Glenn Austin, Hydrologic Services Chief, OCWWS. "We met to build a basis and understanding of hydrologic service goals and priorities, and to provide a clear understanding of what the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) is and the roles and responsibilities for implementing AHPS across the country."

Austin said the conference also provided a chance for hydrologic program managers to share ideas and best practices across regional boundaries, and to provide training on program leadership, team building and customer service.

NWS Director Jack Kelly opened the conference with a presentation and then took time to engage in a question and answer session with the audience. "The emerging issue in this country, and around the world, is water availability, accessability, and quality," Kelly said.

The significance of the Hydrologic Program and the importance HPMs play in the Weather Service's mission were discussed by Greg Mandt, OWCCS Director, and Gary Carter, Director of the Office of Hydrologic Development (OHD).

Presentations by Kevin Stewart, Chairman, National Hydrologic Warning Council, and Manager of Information and Flood Warning Systems, Denver Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, Denver, CO, and Jim White, Emergency Management Coordinator, Harris County, TX, provided the HPMs with views from two customers and partners.

Stewart, in his keynote remarks noted that the AHPS Initiative has "elevated the status of the NWS Hydrology Program in the country." In turn, he added, the importance the NWS is giving to improving hydrologic services is helping him and his peers make their cases for improving hydrologic services at state and local levels.

White told conference attendees "We need to continue to strengthen our partnership and leverage off each others' resources in order to effectively plan and respond to flood hazards such as those caused by Tropical Storm Allison."

Several speakers presented information about the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS). HPMs at all levels obtained a clear view of AHPS and their role and responsibilities for its implementation. An open forum at the end of this session provided the attendees an opportunity to further clarify any questions that they might have had.

Breakout sessions and open forums at the conference covered Flash Flood Hydrology, Snow Hydrology, River Ice (Jams), and Drought. Each of the NWS Regions took time for breakouts to cover regional issues/topics.

Feedback from NWS attendees indicated the conference was worthwhile.

"The fact that this conference was organized and conducted for...WFO Hydrology Program Managers makes me feel the work I do for the NWS is important for the first time," said Steve Bayes, Service Hydrologist, Little Rock, AR, Weather Forecast Office (WFO).

Rick Sloan, Service Hydrologist, Dodge City, KS, added, "For the first time, I feel like we're all on the same page."

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El Niņo Still on Track to Influence U.S. Winter

Last week's early dose of snow and ice in the Southeast and along the East Coast may be a glimpse of weather to come during Winter 2002-03, thanks to a moderate-strength El Niņo digging in its heels. NOAA released an updated Winter Outlook and updated El Niņo outlook on Thursday, December 12, 2002. Additional background information on the current outlook was prepared by the Office of Public Affairs and Climate Prediction Center to help keep you up-to-date.

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Focus On the Field:
Reconditioning Center Veteran's Career Spans Massive Technological Changes

Charles H. Lake, Jr., an Electronics Technician and quality control specialist at the National Reconditioning Center (NRC) has seen tremendous technological change during a 38-year federal career, and 26 years with the NRC.

"When I first started working in electronics, everything was vacuum tubes," recalls Charles H. Lake, Jr. "We thought back then that the transistor could never replace the vacuum tube, but it sure did!"

The NRC maintains both ancient and cutting-edge equipment; everything from mercury thermometers, river gauges, and parachutes to laser ceilometers that measure cloud height. Lake and co-workers in the Technical Inspection and Material Reception Branch (TIMRB) of the NRC inspect both electronic and mechanical equipment before it is placed back into operation in the field. The NRC is responsible for the repair and quality assurance of new and reconditioned parts shipped to NWS offices.

"Everything is becoming computer-based," said Lake. "Today's equipment has diagnostic capabilities built-in and the quality control technician of the future will have to be very computer-literate. While a lot of the old equipment has been phased out though the modernization, it takes mechanical, electronic, computer, and hands-on experience to maintain Weather Service equipment."

"I've seen technology change significantly during my career," recalls Lake. "My career spans the digital revolution, predates the Internet and integrated circuits on computer chips, and computerized equipment networked together in open systems."

"Charlie is retiring on January 3, and leaving big shoes to fill," said TIMRB Branch Chief, Russel Horan. "I really admire his willingness to go the extra mile to train his peers and new people on some of the older equipment and to make sure there are written procedures in place so that others can follow behind him, pick-up the procedures, and be able to do a test. Charlie is very professional and takes a lot of pride in his work, and he's good at his job."

Another coworker said Lake has been a "guiding light" when no one else had specifications or drawings or any idea how to test some of the equipment that comes through the NRC's doors.

"He saves the day a lot of times when we have problems understanding certain equipment," said John Rasheed, an Electronic Technician who works with Lake. Most of us call on Charlie Lake because he has such a wealth of experience, in oscilloscopes, radar, barographs, hygrothemograph, and just about everything around here."

In reflecting on technological changes over the years, Lake says he's seen equipment come though the NRC that was built in the 1920's.

"A couple of years ago, we had a river gauge come in that was manufactured in 1925. So we're working on stuff that goes way back, as well as cutting-edge technology."

Training, says Lake, will be key to staying ahead of the technology curve in the future. In the 26 years he has worked for the NWS, Lake said he has accumulated 52 weeks of training to stay on top of technology and changing equipment. "Everything now is digital, years ago everything was analog. Look at the oscilloscope, once it was switches, now it's all digital," Lake said.

"Charlie is probably an expert on most of the equipment on the shelves of the NRC," said Al Morris, Chief of the NRC. Morris is the only person with a longer tenure at the NRC; he arrived there a month before Lake. "Even from the very beginning, Charlie's work was excellent. He's been very important part of this organization and he will be missed. His work on remote data loggers has been just one area that stands out in my mind."

According to Roy Wiggins, Senior Electronics Technician in the unit where Lake works, the Instrument Inspection Unit, "Charlie will be missed for more than his technical expertise."

"Charlie can talk to anyone, at any level, about anything. He has that capacity. He's a very unique person," adds Rasheed. Lake's supervisor Horan says, " I wish I had ten more people like him. He has initiative, enthusiasm, warmth, and great sense of humor. I wish him well as he moves on to the next phase of his life, it's been an honor working with him here at the NRC."

Do you have an interesting person you'd like to recommend for this new column? We want to hear from you. E-mail us at NWS.Focus@noaa.gov.

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