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The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), through the National Weather Service (NWS), has broad Federal responsibility to
provide to the public severe storm and flood warnings and weather forecasts, as well as river
flow and water resource forecasts. Timely and accurate forecasts and warnings of river and
weather conditions are critical to protect life and property and to help support the Nation's
economic and environmental well-being.
A national survey team was assembled following a major rainfall and snowmelt event in the
Northeast in January 1996, which resulted in record flooding. States affected were
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Vermont, Ohio, and New
Jersey. Thirty-three deaths resulted from this event as well as $1.5 billion in damages.
The survey team consisted of ten individuals including personnel from the National Weather
Service (NWS) Headquarters and the Alaskan, Central, and Western regions, as well as non-
NWS consultants. The team was split into two groups. Group A visited various offices in
Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Ohio. Group B visited offices in Pennsylvania,
Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. The survey was conducted from February 6-9, 1996.
This report summarizes findings resulting from the survey team's investigation as well as the
associated recommendations for improvement where deficiencies were found. Relevant
findings and recommendations are contained in each chapter. A summary of all findings and
recommendations is contained in Chapter 6.
Although the Northeast Floods of January 1996 caused devastating human, environmental, and
economic impacts, the lessons learned will guide us in providing improved services and
benefits to the Nation in the future.
John J. Kelly, Jr.
for Weather Services
The flood survey team expresses its appreciation to the staffs of the NWSFOs, NWSOs, and
RFCs visited for their cooperation and support during the period the survey team was on site,
and for the assistance the Eastern Region and these offices provided in preparing information
necessary for this report. The total support of the Eastern Region Headquarters Hydrologic
Services Division is acknowledged and appreciated.
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