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NWS Focus
December 4, 2006 View Printer Friendly Version

- Editor's Note: "I've Lost My Focus!"
- NWS Hosts National Digital Forecast Database Technical Workshop
- NDFD Improvements and Additions Implemented
- Raleigh Forecast Office Assists with Hazardous Materials Fire
- NOAA Dedicates National Weather Center in Oklahoma
- COMET Program Honored for Excellence in Geophysical Education
- NWS Loses Family Member in Alaska Region
- Employee Milestones

- Snapshots

On November 22, Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) Team Captain Verona Davis presented a CFC Eagle Pin to NWS Director Brig. General D.L. Johnson, USAF (Ret.) at a CFC Key Worker training session in Silver Spring, MD. National Capital Area CFC Executive Larry Blevins (far left), Sharon Matthews (far right), and NWS National Capital Area Coordinator Wayne Weeks look on. As the world's largest and most successful annual workplace giving campaign, each year more than 300 CFC campaigns throughout the country and internationally help to raise millions of dollars. With the campaign scheduled to end December 15, please fill out those forms soon!

Editor's Note:
"I've Lost My Focus!"

by John Skoda
NWS Communications Office

You may have noticed that fewer issues of NWS Focus are showing up in your inbox lately.  Here in the NWS Communications Office, we're gratified to report that we've even received several e-mails complaining about the lack of new issues.  Thank you for missing them!

Due to a staffing shortage here, we haven't been able to give NWS Focus the focus it deserves.  We regret that.

However, we have a lot of new ideas for how we can use NWS Focus to improve general communications around the agency, but, it will take time and attention to develop them.  In the meantime, please keep those e-mails (and articles) coming in.

There are exciting times ahead for NWS Focus and the agency as a whole.  With focus and determination we’ll get there.  Thanks for helping us make NWS Focus what it has been and what it will become.

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NWS Hosts National Digital Forecast Database Technical Workshop

by Glenn Austin and Andy Horvitz, Digital Services Transition Staff,
Kevin Barjenbruch, WFO Salt Lake City, UT  

NWS hosted the second National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD) Technical Workshop on its Silver Spring campus on November 2, 2006. More than seventy participants, including partners and customers from the private and commercial sector, media, and federal agencies engaged in wide ranging discussions on availability of data formats, sharing of digital data, and development of new NDFD elements.

Ken Graham, Acting NWS Services Evolution Director, set the tone for the day by stating the importance of working with the weather enterprise as the NWS transitions to an impact-based concept of operations.  In doing so Ken stated, "we can improve productivity, fit into the missions of other agencies, and better address societal impacts.  If these key objectives are accomplished, the NWS will be relevant in providing environmental services in 2015 and beyond."  This message was well received by the group.  Questions were asked regarding the relationship of NDFD and the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) and the DOT Intelligent Transportation Systems Vehicle Infrastructure Integration (VII) initiative.  The NWS is a part of the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) for NGATS and is also involved with the Federal Highway Administration on VII.

The workshop was highly interactive with partners providing feedback on the content of the current database as well as comments on the accessibility of the data. Presentations were made on methods customers can use to download, convert, and use the data.

There was a very positive response to the information provided by NOAA's Coastal Services Center describing the process Geographic Information System users could follow to access and utilize the NDFD data. Participants were also interested to learn more about acquiring archived NDFD datasets from the National Climatic Data Center's National Operational Model Archive and Distribution System.

Attendees all agreed that in order to keep the lines of communication open, and to keep pace with the ever-changing technology, annual technical workshops should be scheduled. Joe Koval, The Weather Channel, noted "The technical workshop was a good opportunity to discuss the promise that the NDFD holds. The presentations on data retrieval were especially informative. As the NDFD continues evolving in its importance to the community at large, we certainly look forward to attending future workshops."

For a detailed summary of the NDFD Technical Workshop, visit

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NDFD Improvements and Additions Implemented

by Chris Alex
Digital Services Transition Staff

NWS has added a new element to the National Digital Forecast Database (NDFD), changed the time the NDFD is extended by 24 hours, and improved the NDFD family of web pages.
On November 1, precipitation forecasts for Hawaii were added to the NDFD on an experimental basis. Precipitation, also known as Quantitative Precipitation Forecast (QPF), is already available on an experimental basis in NDFD for the conterminous U.S. (CONUS) and Puerto Rico/the Virgin Islands.

On November 28, the time the NDFD is extended by 24 hours (adding a new Day 7 forecast to the database, for example) changed from 1800 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) to 2200 UTC.  Shifting the update time to 2200 UTC will allow NWS forecasters to assimilate the most recent forecast models and national centers guidance into their forecast, and collaborate more with neighboring NWS offices. The result will be more accurate and coherent forecasts across the country and in NDFD. See TIN 06-51 for more information about this change.

As a by-product of this change, the elements covering Days 4 through 7 will be updated five times per day: 0000 UTC, 0600 UTC, 1200 UTC, 1800 UTC, and 2200 UTC. The Days 1 through 3 portion of the NDFD will continue to be updated hourly.

Based on customer feedback, we have begun making improvements to the NDFD website.  In September, we added a new page to consolidate all NDFD-related Product Description Documents and Service Description Documents.   The new web page is:

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Tu Vinh Awarded for Indispensable Support

Tu Vinh was recently awarded an NWS Certificate of Recognition for his extraordinary efforts in support of the NWS Telecommunication Gateway (NWSTG).  Vinh is Foulger-Pratt Property Management's senior building engineer for the NWS headquarters building in Silver Spring, MD (Silver Spring Metro Center #2 - SSMC2).  He received his award from acting NWS Chief Information Officer, Larry Curran.

"Tu is unquestionably one of the most valuable assets at headquarters in keeping things running smoothly," said Curran. "He immediately takes ownership of any matter affecting the viability of the entire facility, with special concern for the critical operations of the NWS Telecommunication Gateway.  He consistently provides the Weather Service with a superb level of service, no matter how minor the request or complaint may be.  His self-effacing manner, cordiality, and tireless efforts to meet the demands of the NWS make it a distinct pleasure to work with him."

It would be very difficult to list all the special projects where Tu has assisted the NWSTG Facility Engineering staff, but here are a few examples.

During an exceptionally heavy evening rainstorm, a number of cases of water infiltration in SSMC2 resulted. When the water alarms were first received in the NWSTG, Tu responded immediately to the call-out to bring in a crew to remove the water and dry out the affected areas. He worked through the night to assure that NWS operations would not be impacted.

Tu Vinh on duty in the NWS Telecommunications Gateway. Tu was recently awarded an NWS Certificate of Recognition for his extraordinary support.

Just before the Memorial Day holiday last year, Tu discovered a leaking seal on the primary pump for the critical NWSTG air conditioning system. He worked diligently to locate a maintenance service company and get the repairs completed before the holiday.  Tu stayed well into the evening with the repairman to ensure that the system was completely repaired prior to the long holiday weekend. The extent of the leak was ultimately found to be so extensive the system would have undoubtedly failed over the holiday if the repairs had not been made. 

Several years ago, Tu literally risked his life by entering a flooded pump room containing live electric circuits to shut off the water service to the building after the water main ruptured.  His follow-up efforts with contractors ensured that the water supply to the critical NWSTG air conditioning remained in service during the repairs.

Congratulations to Tu Vinh, a truly outstanding team member, whose efforts have been indispensable in assuring the reliable operations of the NWS.

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Raleigh Forecast Office Assists with Hazardous Materials Fire

On October 5, a major fire started at a hazardous materials facility in Apex, NC. Approximately 17,000 nearby residents were asked to evacuate for nearly 36 hours including over 100 residents of a healthcare facility.  There were no deaths, but approximately 35 people, primarily first responders, were treated for exposure to contaminated air.

The NWS Raleigh, NC, Weather Forecast Office (WFO) provided meteorological support to the incident command center during the event.  Supplemental staffing, including four forecasters and an intern, was already in place at the time of the incident as forecasters were concerned with potential severe weather.  Lead Forecasters during the event were proactive, doing everything they could to get critical updates on changing weather conditions to the incident command center.

Brian McFeaters of Wake County Emergency Management was first contact for NWS within incident command.  Brian has a background in meteorology and was briefing commanders and helping with decisions based on NWS weather information. 

"I cannot say enough about the guys at the NWS," McFeaters said.  It was just what we needed.  Your information was excellent.  Folks at your office were calm, professional, descriptive, and brief."

However, information at the beginning of the event was limited.  It was not until a staff member's spouse called from home that the staff became aware of how serious the event had become.  Forecasters had to request the contact information for the incident command from the NC State Warning Point. 

As good as McFeaters thought the information was, the information exchange between the incident command center and the WFO was inefficient at times.  For example, forecasters had to call the command center to get data on the fire, login to a password-protected web site to get HYSPLIT output, and find an e-mail address to send the HYSPLIT data to the command center.  An on-scene Incident Meteorologist (IMET) would have helped improve the exchange of critical information.

After discussing the NWS IMET program with McFeaters his comment was, "I really like the IMET idea and we need to look into it.  You probably would not have been able to get out here at the beginning, but once an incident command is established and we are in the second phase forecasting plume extent and runoff it would be nice to have a meteorologist in there working with Environmental Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and emergency management."

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NOAA Dedicates National Weather Center in Oklahoma

On September 29, NOAA participated in the dedication ceremony for the National Weather Center (NWC), in Norman, OK.  On hand for the ceremony were David Sampson, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, Brigadier General D.L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), Assistant Administrator for Weather Services and National Weather Service Director, Richard W. Spinrad, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Research, and Scott Rayder, NOAA Chief of Staff.

The National Weather Center houses a unique confederation of NOAA, University of Oklahoma, and state organizations that work together to improve understanding of events occurring in Earth's atmosphere over a range of time and space scales.  NOAA occupies 51 percent of the building, which is 244,000 square feet with five stories plus a rooftop outdoor classroom and enclosed weather observation deck.  NOAA units in the building include the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the Storm Prediction Center, the Norman Weather Forecast Office, the Warning Decision Training Branch, and the Radar Operations Center's Applications Branch. 

"The National Weather Center affords the type of collaboration between government, academia and the private sector that offers the best opportunity to advance our understanding and prediction of weather phenomena to save lives and property as well as promote economic development," said Deputy Secretary of Commerce David A. Sampson.

NWC houses about 550 people, including research scientists, operational meteorologists and climatologists, engineers, technicians, and students.  The new facility will provide greater synergy and integration across the NOAA and University of Oklahoma organizations in Norman and help speed the process of moving weather research developments into operations.

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COMET Program Honored for Excellence in Geophysical Education

The American Geophysical Union recently awarded the COMET program with its 2006 Excellence in Geophysical Education Award.  This was only the second time this award has been presented.

COMET was honored for "outstanding efforts to provide and improve access to quality science education materials worldwide."

General Johnson (left) accepts the 2006 AGU Excellence in Geophysical Education award on October 2 from COMET President Tim Spangler (center) as Percy Thomas (right), Director of the NWS Training Division, looks on.

In 1989, NWS approached the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) with the idea of setting up a university/NWS scientific training program to re-engage the university community in advancing the weather services of the Nation, especially since weather services were being modernized.  In 1990, COMET began actively producing materials used to train thousands of forecasters without requiring them to leave their duty stations for days at a time. Although distance education today is commonplace, at the time COMET began, this was blazing new territory.

As mentioned in the award citation, "COMET now also reaches university faculty and students, emergency managers, broadcasters, and the general public with its ever-expanding list of educational materials on a variety of topics in geophysical disciplines. Over 400 universities and colleges have accessed the COMET training website."

For more information on the award and to read the complete award citation, visit the COMET site.

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NWS Loses Family Member in Alaska Region

by Laura Furgione
Director, NWS Alaska Region

The NWS lost of one its most devoted members on November 1, when Donald Drew, WFO Juneau Lead Forecaster, passed away at home.
Don joined the National Weather Service on April 14, 1974, upon completing his Masters Degree in Meteorology at Rutgers University.  Don was a Meteorologist Intern at the Environmental Study Service Center, in Auburn, AL, and then went to WSFO Memphis, TN.  In March of 1976 Don left Tennessee, and the "Lower 48," when he was selected for a Meteorologist position at WSFO Juneau, AK.
Don’s 30 years of forecasting experience made him an expert in the nuances of Southeast Alaska's weather.  He readily shared his talents and knowledge with the rest of the Juneau community.  In particular, Don hosted one of the longest running radio programs on public radio.  His Mule Train show aired every Tuesday night throughout southeast Alaska and featured, as Don would say, "real country music."  Don was an accomplished musician in his own right and was well-known in local music circles.
Don was soft-spoken and quick to flash his smile.  No one was more of a gentleman or a better public figure for the NWS than Don.  It was a privilege to work with Don and an honor to know him.

My deepest sympathy goes out to Don's family and the WFO Juneau staff.

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Employee Milestones

  • Click here to see NEW APPOINTMENTS/TRANSFERS to NWS through November 30, 2006.
  • Click here to see RETIREMENTS/DEPARTURES from NWS through November 30, 2006.
  • Click here to see NWS EMPLOYEES ACCOMPLISHMENTS through November 30, 2006.

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