(Revised, December, 2000)
The Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) was established in 1955 for the purpose of providing flood and low-flow river forecasts for the southeastern United States. The area of forecast responsibility for the SERFC was designated to include rivers that drain into the Atlantic Ocean along the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida as well as the rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico from Mobile Bay to the southernmost tip of Florida.
The original office of the SERFC was collocated with the Weather Bureau Airport Station at the city airport in Augusta, Georgia. In 1967 the office was moved to Atlanta, Ga to become collocated with the Weather Bureau office at the Atlanta International Airport. Because space was unavailable at the airport, the office was temporarily housed at three different downtown locations (Peachtree-Baker Building, then, 1401 Peachtree Street, and then, 1365 Peachtree Street) before finally being collocated with the Weather Service Forecast Office (WSFO) in 1976 at 1001 International Boulevard, Hapeville, GA. The collocated office was relocated to temporary quarters at 3420 Norman Berry Drive, Hapeville, GA on February 28, 1992 after Delta Airlines bought the building on International Boulevard and needed the entire building for their own use. On April 19, 1994, the collocated offices moved to Peachtree City, GA
Between 1955 and 1972 the SERFC disseminated river forecasts through nine Weather Bureau offices that were designated River District Offices (RDOs), whose areas of hydrologic responsibility were delineated by river basin boundaries rather than state lines. The RDOs were Mobile, AL; Montgomery, AL; Pensacola, FL; Tampa, FL; Atlanta, GA; Augusta, GA; Macon, GA; Charleston, SC; and Columbia, SC. Raleigh-Durham Weather Bureau office was designated an RDO, but produced its own river forecasts until 1972. In 1972, the Weather Service adopted the state WSFO concept. River forecasts were then disseminated through six WSFOs as follows: Birmingham, AL; Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Jackson, MS; Columbia, SC and Raleigh-Durham, NC. This "area management" concept persisted until September 30, 1996. At the present time, there are 18 Weather Forecast Offices in the SERFC area and each of them has hydrologic responsibility for the area that they cover.
Before the advent of the computer age, river forecasts issued by the SERFC were prepared by hand with procedures utilizing maps, graphs, tables, charts, etc. Computer programming was begun in the mid-1960s to produce software that would reduce the labor intensive work involved in managing the soil moisture accounting system that was being used in the SERFC. When the office moved to Atlanta in 1967, an in-house IBM 1130 (16K) computer was obtained, and over the next few years the preparation of forecasts gradually became computerized. In 1975, the SERFC was linked to the IBM 360/195 systems of the NOAA Central Computer Facility in Suitland, MD, and preliminary calibration work was begun on the National Weather Service River Forecast System (NWSRFS). In late 1982, a total commitment was made to adopt the more sophisticated NWSRFS as SERFC's primary hydrologic model and in 1986 the change over was completed, leaving the old model behind. Later, the IBM 360s were replaced by NAS 9000s, where the NWSRFS resided until December, 1996. In the summer of 1996, fast, high capacity computer workstations were placed in the RFC and within a few months, all operational products were being generated "in-house'. Although the forecasts are calculated by computer, they still require thorough analysis by professional hydrologists for possible adjustment. Insufficient data and/or imperfections in the hydrologic model often require revisions of the computer forecast.
In addition to having responsibility for the preparation of river forecasts for public dissemination through WSFOs, the SERFC provides forecasts directly to, and works closely with, other federal, state, and private agencies that have an interest in water resources. Open lines of communications with the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Corps of Engineers, private power companies, state water management agencies, and other water interests have been cultivated since SERFC began operations. Since 1985, the SERFC has become increasingly involved in aspects of water resources other than short term river forecasts. SERFC was the first RFC to calibrate and use the Extended Streamflow Prediction (ESP) model in a non-snowmelt area. Drought outlooks and seasonal probabilistic predictions are now being provided on a scheduled basis to assist responsible agencies in the management of water resources.
Attention was focused on interagency hydrometeorological data exchange in 1985 when SERFC was equipped with a minicomputer that was dedicated to the task of collecting, storing, and disseminating a wide range of data to interested agencies. . Cooperating agencies began to provide data for and receive data from the DATACOL files which were maintained in that computer system. In 1993, the minicomputer with its DATACOL software, was replaced by smaller, high-speed micro-computers and DATACOL was replaced by a new and improved software load called Hydromet. The Corps of Engineers cooperated in the program by providing a second identical system to back-up the primary system.
The development and deployment of the WSR-88D radar was a notable event in the history of the NWS, and there was no exception at SERFC. The entire professional staff attended the four-week training course at Norman, OK in 1992 to learn to use the new radar and interpret its output. The Principal User Processor (PUP) arrived in January 1993. Full use of the new system's capabilities was not attained until new computer work stations were made available at a future date.