(Dec. 12, 2012) - National Weather Service forecast offices in Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala. and Jackson, Miss. will receive Department of Commerce Silver Medals on January 8, 2013 for their exemplary efforts to mitigate the loss of life during the deadly tornado outbreak of April 27, 2011. The offices were recognized in the category of customer service.
The recognition specifies:
"The level of customer service and decision support leading up to and during the event certainly saved many lives while the follow-up storm surveys, analyses, and documentation were critical to local, state, and federal planning. The offices were widely praised for their accurate and life-saving warning messages that warned for catastrophic tornadoes with an average of more than 22 minutes advanced notice."
In all, 358 tornadoes were confirmed over a three day period starting April 25.
A record total of 205 touched down on April 27, at least four of which were rated EF-5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.
A total of 324 tornado-related deaths occurred during the outbreak, with 238 of those in in Alabama alone.
Despite the horrendous number of casualties, it is believed the toll would have been even greater if not for the high quality of service provided by the forecast offices.
The Silver Medal is the second highest honorary award granted by the Department of Commerce. It is defined as exceptional performance characterized by noteworthy or superlative contributions which have a direct and lasting impact within the department.