Skip Navigation Link www.nws.noaa.gov  
NOAA logo - Click to go to the NOAA homepage National Weather Service   NWS logo - Click to go to the NWS homepage
Hydrology Laboratory
   
Local forecast by
"City, St"

APPENDIX A
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS


CHAPTER 1: BACKGROUND AND OVERVIEW OF THE EVENT
No findings and recommendations in this chapter.

CHAPTER 2: OVERVIEW OF NWS PERFORMANCE
FINDING 2-1: As is generally the case with a synoptic pattern with little or no forcing and weak steering currents, the National Meteorological Center and National Hurricane Center models in general did not perform well with regard to the track of the remnants of Tropical Storm Alberto. RECOMMENDATION 2-1: The National Weather Service (NWS) should continue to strive for improvements in tracking tropical systems once they make landfall. It is especially important that improvements be made in the forecasts at the surface and not just in the mid and upper levels of the atmosphere. Interactions with the research community within National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (such as the Office of Atmospheric Research) and other Federal agencies, as well as the academic research community, are especially encouraged.
FINDING 2-2: The quantitative precipitation forecast (QPF) guidance generated by the National Meteorological Center models was poor (as is common for convective situations during the warm season) and therefore of limited help to the forecasters. The national QPF guidance frequently underestimated excessive rainfall amounts and sometimes did not accurately highlight the area of maximum rainfall. RECOMMENDATION 2-2: The NWS should continue to strive for improvements in QPFs for tropical and convective systems.
FINDING 2-3: The Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) Stage I Precipitation Processing, which runs in the Radar Products Generator, does not currently use rain gage data to provide potentially better quantitative estimates of the precipitation. RECOMMENDATION 2-3: Rain gage data must be included in the WSR-88D Stage I Precipitation Processing as soon as possible, so that the radar-rainfall can be adjusted to avoid underestimation of rainfall associated with warm tropical events.
FINDING 2-4: The number of automated rain gages under the umbrellas of many of the WSR-88Ds in the area affected by Alberto was inadequate to effectively incorporate rain gage data into the Stage I Precipitation Processing. RECOMMENDATION 2-4: The rain gage data network must be expanded and the reporting characteristics of existing sites modified to provide more timely data to produce a higher quality WSR-88D precipitation estimate.
FINDING 2-5: Even though the Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) area of responsibility has almost complete WSR-88D coverage, the SERFC was not able to quantitatively use the WSR-88D information in its forecasts. The capability to process WSR-88D digital precipitation estimates would have added value to the hydrologic forecasts. RECOMMENDATION 2-5: Pre-AWIPS workstations must be deployed immediately to the SERFC and other River Forecast Centers (RFC) so the Stages II and III Precipitation Processing can be performed and utilized in the forecasts.
FINDING 2-6: The Atlanta WSR-88D was not able to retrieve data from the archive for a precipitation event that set historical records. RECOMMENDATION 2-6: The potential for losing data, for all time, that could be used for storm analysis, training, and calibration of hydrometeorologic models and calibration of the WSR-88D dictates a requirement that there be a prompt resolution of the problems with the archive media.
FINDING 2-7: The WSR-88D was unable to provide all the products in the time required when there was a large-scale precipitation event. RECOMMENDATION 2-7: Develop methods to increase the number of products that can be obtained by associated principle user processors, especially for offices with warning responsibilities.
FINDING 2-8: A limitation in the number of phone lines caused problems for at least one office and a cooperative observer from a critical area who was not able to provide data to the NWS because of busy phone lines. RECOMMENDATION 2-8: Ensure that data are not lost due to inadequate phone lines into NWS offices and have adequate automated collection systems to acquire data so that the capacity of voice lines is not a constraint.
FINDING 2-9: The remote job entry (RJE) dial backup did not function because the dedicated phone line had not been connected to the system. The RJE dial backup had not been tested since the office moved. RECOMMENDATION 2-9: RFC staffs must routinely test the RJE dial backup.
FINDING 2-10: The SERFC did not declare a Critical Flood Situation during the Alberto event, because job processing times were adequate. RECOMMENDATION 2-10: The declaration of a Critical Flood Situation and use of the crisis job priority are powerful tools that should be utilized by the RFCs during any critical flood event.
FINDING 2-11: The Sheriff/Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director for Sumter County, Georgia, receives weather watches and warnings from the public broadcast media. The county does not receive the National Attack Warning System (NAWAS) transmissions and is on the outside fringe of NOAA Weather Radio (NWR) reception (Americus is 68 miles from the nearest NWR transmitter). The NWR tone alert does not work reliably in the county because of this distance. RECOMMENDATION 2-11: NWS should work with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that every county emergency management agency/emergency operation center in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia has a communication link to NAWAS. Additionally, the Gore Initiative should be implemented as soon as possible to expand the NWR network of transmitters to reach 95 percent of the population.
FINDING 2-12: The Sheriff of Sumter County, Georgia, as with many other emergency management officials in the impacted area, expressed a high degree of frustration in making residents aware of the danger from the floodwaters and of the need to evacuate. Some of the deaths that occurred were people who had been warned (more than once) to evacuate but failed to act until it was no longer safe to do so. No flash flood/flood anywhere near the magnitude of this event had ever occurred in this area; and residents were, for the large part, unable to realize the dangers they faced until it was too late. RECOMMENDATION 2-12: More emphasis should be placed on public awareness and preparedness training for flood and flash flood events. The continued high number of vehicle-related deaths during floods and flash floods indicates the need to educate the public of the risks involved with vehicles in flood situations. The "Hidden Danger" video currently being developed by the NWS should be used to inform the public of the dangers of low-water crossings.
FINDING 2-13: The Sheriff of Sumter County, Georgia, had high praise for NWS products and service during this event and did not think there was anything the NWS could have done to reduce the loss of life during this event. He did think it is a mistake for the NWS and the media to emphasize tropical storms only up until landfall; and then, in some cases, the public perceives that there is no danger because of a relatively weak wind-producing storm. RECOMMENDATION 2-13: The NWS should work with the media to educate the public on the fact that heavy rains and widespread flooding from tropical storms and hurricanes may have as much, and in some cases even more, detrimental impact as winds at landfall.
FINDING 2-14: The disaster survey team found that the Flash Flood Warnings issued in this event were generally accurate and timely. However, many lacked a strong enough indication of the life- threatening nature of the flash flooding. RECOMMENDATION 2-14: NWS offices should strive to better recognize truly extreme rainfall events and, in those events, use the strongest possible wording in the warnings and statements issued to make the public more cognizant of the life-threatening nature of the event.
FINDING 2-15: The disaster survey team found a high degree of satisfaction from emergency managers, the media, and the public with the river forecast services they received during this event. In particular, the impact statements and relationship to recent and historical flood levels were judged valuable information. RECOMMENDATION 2-15: NWS Hydrologic Service Area offices should make every effort to include up-to-date and informative impact statements in all Flood Warnings and Flood Statements.
FINDING 2-16: There were several suggestions from emergency managers and the media that the public river forecasts be updated more frequently. The normal procedure presently is to issue the Flood Statements once per day in late morning or early afternoon. In particular, an early morning update was suggested to provide current information so the public can make more informed decisions on commute, daily activities, or evacuation activities. RECOMMENDATION 2-16: NWS offices should make every attempt to update Flood Warnings and Flood Statements more than once per day.
FINDING 2-17: Several users suggested that changes in crest forecast values be highlighted at the beginning of Flood Statements. An analysis by the disaster survey team of the Flood Statements issued during this event where the crest forecast was revised from the previous forecast showed that they, in general, did not call attention to the fact that a crest forecast had been revised. RECOMMENDATION 2-17: Any significant change in the crest forecast from a previous crest forecast should be highlighted at the beginning of the Flood Warning or Flood Statement.
FINDING 2-18: The forecast for the Flint River at Bainbridge received considerable media and public attention when the river crested well below the forecasted level. RECOMMENDATION 2-18: The SERFC must investigate the causes for the Bainbridge forecast error and make the appropriate changes to the hydrologic forecast model as soon as possible. When the appropriate modifications to the hydrologic model are completed, NWS personnel, RFC and/or NEXRAD Weather Service Forecast Office (NWSFO), should make the necessary effort to brief the Bainbridge public officials (and media) on their findings.
FINDING 2-19: Some communities, and perhaps emergency managers, were not as prepared for the disastrous floods as they could have been if there were greater personal contact and education on floods by NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologists (WCM) and Service Hydrologists (SH). RECOMMENDATION 2-19: NWS policy should require periodic (annual if possible) personal visits by the WCMs and/or SHs to emergency management and other action agencies from the state to the local level. These contacts should include a review of the flood threat to the local community (emphasizing the threat to vehicular passengers) and a review of the hydrologic services that the NWS provides. This educational process should specify what products are available, how they can be used, and where they can most efficiently be obtained.
FINDING 2-20: The public's perceived threat from Alberto appeared to lessen once it made landfall. RECOMMENDATION 2-20: The NWS and NOAA should take maximum advantage of the recommendations from the 1995 Interdepartmental Hurricane and the NOAA Hurricane Conferences, which focused on the inland effects of tropical cyclones, in order to enhance the public's perception of the dangers associated with landfalling tropical cyclones. In addition, the WCMs in all areas which might be affected by the aftermath of decaying tropical cyclones should reenforce the potential for severe flooding from such storms with the user community.
FINDING 2-21: The disaster team believes another possible contributing factor to the high death count could be that the public was not adequately educated regarding the locations of flood-prone areas (particularly roads), safe evacuation routes, and the potential impact of their actions. RECOMMENDATION 2-21: If funding permits, the NWS, in conjunction with FEMA and appropriate state and local agencies, should embark upon a campaign to educate the public as to their local flood-prone areas. This should include a widely distributed array of visual representations of flood-prone areas depicting roads and bridges as well as portions of communities that may be potentially inundated by floods. Additionally, the NWS should plan to issue graphical flood forecasts as well as the traditional text products.
FINDING 2-22: The disaster team felt it was inappropriate for a single NWS office to be expected to respond to an event that covered multiple offices and to FEMA's national-level press and Federal coordination briefings. In addition, there was an imbalance in the media contacts and interest with the National Hurricane Center prior to landfall and Weather Forecast Branch once the tropical cyclone had made landfall. RECOMMENDATION 2-22: The NWS should establish a national media unit to provide beginning-to-end coverage of storm events that have national impact or interest. This unit would provide a consistent posture in front of the national media, which could emphasize the dangers associated with each phase of the storm. The unit would be headed by a public affairs specialist and supported by an ad hoc team of meteorologists and hydrologists, as appropriate for the event. Teleconferencing should be utilized to maximize participation of personnel from a variety of NWS offices.

CHAPTER 3: ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED BY THE EVENT
FINDING 3-1: Key members of the staffs of both NWSFOs and the RFC were attending training away from their home offices during this event. RECOMMENDATION 3-1: Especially during transition, when we have extensive training requirements which are not a luxury, we must have adequate staff to cover operations.
FINDING 3-2: One NWSFO and the RFC affected by Alberto did not have sufficient human resources, and the other NWSFO did not have sufficient communications resources, to fully utilize data from the WSR-88Ds in the area. None of the Weather Service Offices (WSO) with warning responsibilities had any access to WSR-88D data. In addition, the RFC was unable to process the precipitation data from the WSR-88Ds so they could be input to the hydrologic models. RECOMMENDATION 3-2: The NWS must recognize that during the transition it is not able to fully utilize the WSR-88D and should continue to take steps to accelerate other portions of the modernization and make maximum use of technology components which are mature enough to warrant deployment.
FINDING 3-3: The operational shift and training requirements, coupled with a large geographic area of responsibility, limited the opportunity for the WCMs to interact with local users. Consequently, the WCMs did not thoroughly coordinate with all the users in their County Warning Area. RECOMMENDATION 3-3: The NWS needs to develop an efficient strategy to maximize the efficiency of the collective efforts of the WCMs and other staff members. A WCM team approach should be considered whereby other Weather Forecast Office (WFO) and occasionally RFC staff members are designated as liaisons with the state and local agencies involved in such activities as emergency management, water resources, and public safety.
FINDING 3-4: At least one member of the emergency management community chose not to be burdened with the numerous products sent via NOAA Weather Wire Service (NWWS) for a neighboring state. As a result, critical forecasts and warnings for that county were not received. NWWS users want to efficiently receive weather information that pertains only to their jurisdictions. RECOMMENDATION 3-4: Users need the ability on NWWS to parse only those hydrologic products that apply to their areas of responsibility, e.g., a given county. The NWS should require the use of generic codes on all NWS public hydrologic products until AWIPS is implemented, and the WCMs should work with the users to insure that all necessary products are being received.
FINDING 3-5: The NWS offices affected by Alberto were stressed to provide enough human resources during the disaster to continuously utilize all information the WSR-88Ds had to offer. It would have been virtually impossible for these offices to have provided the critical services they did if they were staffed with any less employees. RECOMMENDATION 3-5: The NWS should reassess its core-level staffing requirements (going from five lead forecasters and five journeyman forecasters down to four lead forecasters and four journeyman forecasters), especially for offices with multiple WSR-88Ds.
FINDING 3-6: The SH workload at the offices surveyed was quite extensive and typical of any WFO. Despite the good effort put forth by the SHs, it was apparent that timely completion of important hydrology-related duties could not always be accomplished. This will be compounded in the future for SHs who support multiple hydrologic service areas. RECOMMENDATION 3-6: The NWS should reassess its staffing philosophy for field offices; each WFO should have a resident SH.
FINDING 3-7: Staffing levels at the NWSFOs surveyed by the team, coupled with operational workloads and off-station training requirements, made it virtually impossible for a sufficient number of hydrologic training shifts to be made available for each forecaster to become totally competent in the station hydrology program. RECOMMENDATION 3-7: The NWS should reexamine WFO staffing levels and procedures for developing adequate on- station hydrologic training to avoid difficulties during critical hydrologic events. This should include an adequate number of nonoperational shifts for each meteorologist to be trained to handle hydrologic crises at all times. In addition, Meteorologists in Charge should adhere to the guidance that SHs work no more than 20 percent of their time on forecast shifts.
FINDING 3-8: The personal contacts between the local EMA officials and WSO staffs contributed to their satisfaction with the NWS services. When these offices spin down, the responsibility switches to a single WCM. RECOMMENDATION 3-8: A WCM team approach should be considered with other WFO staff members (e.g., the SH) interacting with the customers.
FINDING 3-9: One-on-one phone contacts between the NWS and all types of users are frequently associated with the user's satisfaction with the service provided by the NWS. However, the number of individual phone calls which can and should be made is limited. An additional drawback for the users who rely on phone contacts is that they have to verbally repeat, dictate, or retype (or some combination) the information in order for it to be shared. RECOMMENDATION 3-9: The NWS must be more sophisticated in its use of communication and dissemination technologies. For example, the NWS should take advantage of aspects of the Information Superhighway (e.g., Internet) to coordinate with the public and other Federal, state, and local agencies as much as possible. Through increased electronic dissemination of NWS products, the NWS staff's time is more effectively used by allowing direct communication with many more users/agencies. Additionally, users/agencies getting information directly from the NWS can then further distribute it automatically without having to repeat, dictate, or retype the information.
Another approach is to integrate into routine NWS field operations a range of communications tools (e.g., satellite broadcast, packet radio, teleconferencing) in order to match the ever- increasing technical capabilities of the NWS' many customers.
FINDING 3-10: Agencies, like FEMA, have made and continue to make great advances in their abilities to effectively communicate with their users; however, the NWS is not fully utilizing the recent advances in information technologies. RECOMMENDATION 3-10: NWS should create national capabilities that parallel the capabilities of FEMA for special emergency response and disaster relief operations. This should be coordinated by the regional or national NWS offices, as appropriate for the magnitude of the event. For example, the NWS should institutionalize the capability to provide support for satellite feeds coordinated by FEMA which are then made available to other Federal and state government agencies and locally on cable television.
FINDING 3-11: The limited ability of the NWS to interact with FEMA raised the concern that the NWS may not be able to synchronize with FEMA and effectively operate an "all hazards" NWR. RECOMMENDATION 3-11: The NWS must be careful not to commit to operating an "all-hazards" NWR without considering issues, such as staffing and length of the NWR program cycle.




Main Link Categories:
Home | NWS | OHD

US Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
Office of Hydrologic Development
1325 East West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Page Author: OHD webmaster
Page last modified: November 3, 2011
Disclaimer
Credits
Glossary
Privacy Policy
About Us
Career Opportunities