The New Orleans/Baton Rouge National Weather Service Office has one of the longest histories of any Weather Service Forecast Office in the United States. The New Orleans office was established under the auspices of the Army Signal Corps of the United States Army on October 4, 1870 and was initially housed in a building at 281 Carondelet Street in New Orleans. On November 1870 of the same year, the office was moved to 222 Custom House Street, now known as Iberville Street. The Office was moved again on November 1, 1871 to the U.S. Custom House at Decatur, Iberville, and Canal Streets.
The Weather Reporting Service of the Army Signal Corps was transferred to the new Weather Bureau, a component of the Department of Agriculture, on July 1, 1891. From March 24, 1915 to December 15, 1961, the New Orleans Weather Bureau Office was located in the Post Office Building at 600 Camp Street. After that time, the office was moved to the fourteenth floor of the Federal Building at 701 Loyola Avenue where it remained until April 1979. During this period, the Weather Bureau became the major component of the new Environmental Science Services Administration under the Department of Commerce in 1965, and acquired its current name, the National Weather Service, when it became the major division of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce in 1970.
A brief history of the station's leadership begins with the first Meteorologist-in-Charge, Isaac Cline (1900-1936), who arrived in New Orleans a year after the 1899 Record Cold event when temperatures plunged to 7 degrees above zero. Cline was a Medical Doctor, noted author (whose books on hurricanes was at one time required to be in every school library in New Orleans), and meteorologist in the military. He was stationed in Galveston, Texas, when the Great Hurricane of 1900, struck and killed over 6,000 people and devastated the city. He attempted to prepare for hurricanes by having his house built on stilts. However, his efforts were not successful. The house was crushed by runaway and washed out railroad ties during the Great Hurricane. Only a daughter and his brother survived. The remainder of his family was lost. He then moved to New Orleans and was the chief meteorologist until his retirement. He worked the 1915 Hurricane in which considerable flooding occurred around Lake Pontchartrain and the canals. Ninety percent of the buildings were damaged and over 200 people were killed. He also worked the great Mississippi River flood of 1927 which concurrently gave rise to two of this nations leaders, Louisiana State Governor and Senator Huey P. Long and Department of Commerce Chief and U.S. President Herbert Hoover.
Following Mr. Cline was Mr. MacDonald, who was chief from 1936 to 1944. He was followed by Stephen Lichtblau (1944-1970) who managed a regional center and forecast office inclusive of hurricane, marine, and aviation weather forecast responsibility. His deputy, W. Clyde Conner, took the reigns in 1970 to 1974 (note that W. Clyde Conner's deputy, Billy Crouch was NWSFO LIX's eighth chief 1987-1994). Mr. Conner started out as a forecaster and worked several major hurricanes such as Audrey (1957), Carla (1961), Betsy (1965), and Camille (1969). He also worked during the Big Snow event, December 31, 1963. He received numerous awards from the NWS for his work. During his tenure the famous Howard Johnson sniper incident occurred in the first week of 1972 when a bullet went through one of the office windows. Eldon Jetton was the next leader. He died of a heart attack in 1975 after only two months in his new position. He was followed by Dave Barnes (1975-1983). During Mr. Barnes' era, the Satellite Field Service Station was established along with the Area Aviation Forecast Center. Mr. Barnes resigned and became the Chief Meteorologist for a CBS television affiliate and a Private Consulting Meteorologist and Oceanographer. The 1980s and 1990s leadership includes Mr. Clarence Vicroy (1983-1986). Mr. Vicroy worked in the office during the Mississippi River flood of 1973 in which the Morganza Spillway was used for the first and only time. Mr. Glen Trapp (1986-1987), Mr. Billy Crouch (1987-1994), and Mr. Paul S. Trotter (1994 to 2008) all served as Area Managers for the office. Since August 2008, Mr. Kenneth Graham has served in this role.
On April 25, 1979, the office was collocated with its radar office and the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Office at 1120 Old Spanish Trail in Slidell, Louisiana and became known as the New Orleans Area Weather Service Forecast Office. When the office relocated to present location in Slidell on February 15, 1994, its name was changed to the New Orleans/Baton Rouge Area National Weather Service Forecast Office. This change incorporated the old Weather Service Office in Baton Rouge which eventually closed during the Modernization and Restructuring process. The current office is collocated with its NEXRAD-88D Doppler Radar and the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.
During its long history, the responsibilities of the New Orleans/Baton Rouge National Weather Service Forecast Office have grown from primarily weather observing activities in the late 1800s to the current issuance of myriad forecasting and warning related products. At one point, the office issued forecasts and warnings for the Gulf of Mexico and sections of a six state region including Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and the western Florida panhandle. Presently, the office prepares forecast and warning products to support such interests as the general public and the aviation, fire weather, and marine communities for southeast Louisiana, and the southwestern and coastal counties of Mississippi. The continuing primary mission of the office is the protection of life and property from natural disasters through the issuance of warnings and forecasts for hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, winter and summer storms, and all manner of severe or extreme weather.
Revised 2/28/2010 CSFP