National Weather Service Dedicates New Hurricane-Resistant
Weather Forecast Office in Key West
March 20, 2006 — NOAA’s National Weather Service dedicated a new, hurricane-resistant weather forecast office in Key West, Fla., today. The new facility is designed to withstand wind speeds and storm surge levels associated with a catastrophic Category 5 hurricane.
“Florida took a terrible beating from four land falling hurricanes in 2004. Hurricanes last year shattered nearly every record set in previous seasons,” said Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. “This new facility helps ensure our National Weather Service staff is able to continue providing critical services to our citizens in the Keys and our marine community during the worst weather conditions.”
“The past two years have demonstrated how devastating the hurricane season can be for Florida and the potentially dire conditions National Weather Service employees must endure to conduct their mission of protecting residents,” said Bill Proenza, director of the National Weather Service Southern Region.
Early in the morning of October 23, 2005, the new weather forecast office faced its first real challenge as the eye of Hurricane Wilma passed just 70 miles north of the Keys at Category 3 intensity. While it wasn’t a worst case scenario, Hurricane Wilma battered Key West with wind gusts in excess of 100 mph and a six-foot storm surge. However, office staff, family members and key emergency management personnel were safely sheltered in the new weather forecast office building.
“The facility provided additional peace of mind for the staff and family members who stayed there,” said Matt Strahan, meteorologist-in-charge of the Key West weather forecast office. “Not having to worry about our safety makes it much easier to concentrate on our mission.”
Constructed with a combination of concrete, reinforcing steel and hurricane impact-resistant glass, the new facility was built to withstand sustained winds of 165 mph. The interior contains an additional concrete structure designed to serve as a Severe Weather Occupancy Shelter to protect against winds up to 250 mph.
The new facility is located approximately a half-mile from shore and six-and-a-half feet above sea level. The interior floors are an additional seven feet above the grade for a combined height of 13.5 feet above sea level, which is 2.5 feet above the anticipated storm tide of a Category 5 hurricane.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Key West is one of 122 forecast offices in the United States and one of 32 serving the Southern Region. It is responsible for providing weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings from Key West to Ocean Reef, portions of the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Straits. According to U.S. Department of Commerce estimates, about 40 percent of the world’s shipping passes through the waters covered by the forecasts and warnings issued by the Key West office.
The National Weather Service is an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.
Ron Trumbla, National Weather Service Southern Region, (817) 978-1111 Ext. 140
Related Web sites:
NOAA National Weather Service: http://www.nws.noaa.gov
National Weather Service in Key West: http://www.srh.noaa.gov/eyw