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Fort Worth, Texas

August 15, 1996



OLYMPIC FINALE. The 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia, are now history. On Friday, August 3, Joe Friday and I presented recognition plaques to members of the Olympic forecast group at Savannah which consisted of forecasters from the United States, Canada, and Australia. Prior to the recognition ceremony, Joe and I met with several key members of the Atlanta Organizing Committee, as well as Olympic personnel who worked the yachting venue in Savannah. All were very complimentary of the weather services provided, and they emphasized how important weather information was to the management of the racing events.

On Monday, August 5, Joe and I conducted a recognition ceremony in Atlanta at the Peachtree City NWS office. Olympic forecasters operating out of that facility handled forecast services for all Olympic events, other than the yachting. Again, it was a very good opportunity to thank all involved for their Olympic support. The most obvious NWS contribution from Peachtree City fell in the area of public safety, both in regard to spectators as well as athletes.

The National Weather Service of the United States received tremendous visibility, both nationally and internationally, as a result of our supporting the Olympic games. We provided the most accurate forecasts possible by using a suite of the most advanced technical tools available in the science today. In spite of our assembling all the best tools, this project clearly demonstrates the fact that it is still the people who make the whole process successful. We thank all who were involved.


As all of you know by now, AWIPS is here and developments are occurring at a very rapid pace. Over the coming months we will use this space in the Topics to keep you informed of what's new. Questions or comments should be directed to Cyndie Abelman, Southern Region AWIPS program leader, W/SR41x2, (817) 978-2367.

THE LATEST NEWS. NWSO/RFC Kansas City is the first field site to receive AWIPS. They received the new system the week of August 12 with software load Alpha 12 of Build 1.

The Kansas City offices have the difficult task of being the first office to get the system which means they, and their system, will be under a lot of scrutiny. The office, along with folks from NWSH, will evaluate the implementation methods of PRC, and to some extent, the software that comes with the system. Next on the implementation list is NWSFO/RFC Salt Lake City (the week of August 19) and NWSO Tulsa (the week of August 26).

The test offices should experience some benefit to their operations. First, they will have five to seven workstations where they can display satellite and radar images, not just one PUP and a SWIS or Micro-SWIS. Mike Heathfield (Office of Meteorology) has listed some of the benefits that will be gained from the development sites:

  1. The versatility of the auto-update feature allows a constant view of updated satellite and radar imagery without having to reload the window.
  2. Five channels of satellite imagery may be loaded into one window and each viewed separately by turning layers on and off.
  3. Loading time for images is reasonable considering they only need to be loaded once per shift.
  4. Data delivery of the satellite data is within minutes of thelast scan line in the image.
  5. New model data updates in windows automatically as it is received.
  6. The availability of finer temporal and spatial resolution of the satellite will provide critical decision-making support during warning operations.
  7. Increased availability of modernized NCEP models will assist in forecast operations.

There is little doubt that the first systems delivered to field offices will have limited capabilities and a variety of problems; but with time and frequent improved software builds, the AWIPS system should grow rapidly in capabilities and reliability.



September 3 Corpus Christi WSR-88D commissioning

September 6 Facility dedication at NWSO San Angelo

STAFFING SCHEDULE FOR NWSOs SPINNING UP TO WFOs. The GS-13 senior forecaster positions at NWSOs are linked to the delivery of AWIPS. The positions will be advertised so that they are filled no later than four months prior to AWIPS EDD. Only the number of positions required to bring the NWSO up to its end-state staffing level for meteorologists will be filled. End-state staffing levels for WFOs have not yet been determined but should be soon.

The first NWSOs in the Southern Region to receive AWIPS will be Houston/Galveston and Melbourne with EDDs currently planned for July 1997. A staffing schedule for Southern Region NWSOs will soon be available in the TMU section of the Southern Region home page.


NWS SUPPORTS THE WORLD'S SECOND LARGEST SPORTING EVENT. The NWS support for the 1996 Olympic Games has ended but is just beginning for the 1996 Paralympic Games. The Paralympic Games for the physically challenged will be held from August 15-25 and will use many of the same venue sites from the Olympic games. Five forecasters have been assembled at the Peachtree City NWS office, and the Olympic Support Weather Office has been converted to support the late August Games. Forecasters for this effort include Bill Abeling (NWSFO Bismark), Steven Cooper (SRH MSD), Kent Frantz (NWSFO Peachtree City), Bill Wilson (NWSFO Louisville), and Walt Zaleski (NWSO Tampa Bay). Lans Rothfusz (NWSFO Peachtree City) will continue his support office MIC role. Visit the home page at:

CWA/MAR MILESTONE ACHIEVED. The Southern Region reached another MAR milestone goal on August 1 when county warning area (CWA) responsibility was transferred from spin-down WSO Abilene to NWSO San Angelo. There are 982 counties in the Southern Region. Three hundred eighty-three have been transferred to their new NWSFO/NWSO. The CWA process took a little over three years to complete. It began on March 8, 1993, with NWSFO Norman. The final ten counties to be transferred (from WSO Huntsville to NWSFO Birmingham) will be made when the additional WSR-88D is installed and operational in the northeast Alabama area. As of now, 97.5% of the CWA transfer has been made. A sincere "thank you" goes to everyone involved in making these transfers go so smoothly and this important accomplishment possible. June 11 was also an important date when all 30 Southern Region WFOs were preparing their "Short Term Forecast."

NWR #126 EXPANSION IN ALABAMA. The Jackson, Alabama, NWR began operating August 1. This becomes the 126th NWR in the Southern Region (WWF-85, 162.500 MHZ, 500 watts). Jackson is between Mobile and Demopolis, Alabama. The Jackson and Dozier NWRs will share a common program originating from NWSO Mobile. Of the five originally planned expansion sites in Alabama, that leaves only Auburn to go. Appreciation is extended to all who worked long and hard to make this NWR expansion site possible. Welcome!

WEATHERLINE, INC., EXPANDS TO THE "BIG EASY." In early August, New Orleans became the latest Southern Region city for which Weatherline, Inc., began providing local recorded forecast phone service. Twenty-three Southern Region cities are now served by Weatherline, Inc.


HYDROLOGIC UPDATE. July rainfall reports from across the Southern Region again averaged well below normal, especially where drought conditions have been prevalent this year. Much of southern Texas remains in severe to extreme drought, with western and northern Oklahoma in moderate to severe drought. Georgia, too, reports moderate to severe drought conditions. However, northwesterly flow aloft brought ample rains to the Texas Panhandle, producing above normal monthly rains for the first time this year. Perryton, Texas, received 10.05 inches of rain in July. NWSO Amarillo registered 4.95 inches for the month--about two times the normal. As a result of the rains, most of the Texas Panhandle returned to near normal soil moisture. These data were based on the August 3, 1996, Palmer Drought Index which can be accessed via the Internet at:

Some more significant precipitation figures from Southern Region HSAs include Memphis, establishing a record for July with 9.87 inches of rain. The heavy rains came in quick bursts causing urban and small stream flooding, but no mainstem river flooding.

In Arkansas, heavy rain on the morning of July 27 resulted in 8 inches of water crossing Interstate 30 between Benton and Little Rock. This caused the closure of the major highway for about six hours. The Woodland Hills Volunteer Fire Department (WHVFD) was forced to evacuate homes by boat where Crooked Creek reportedly rose 10 feet in one hour. While the WHVFD also reported that some people were forced to swim to higher ground, no lives were lost. Rainfall amounts averaged between 3 and 5 inches over eastern Saline County, with most of the rain falling in less than six hours.

Several flash flood events occurred in New Mexico. Most notably, four deaths resulted when a man drove a car carrying his wife, his two children, and a family friend through a low water crossing in southeast New Mexico. Water up to 4 feet deep was running across the road at the time. Rains of 2 to possibly 3 inches fell earlier in the day (about four to five hours before the tragedy) over the Walnut Creek, about 15 miles west of the Spence Road crossing. Watermarks indicated that the water stayed within the banks of Walnut Grove Creek which crosses Spence Road, but would have covered the low water crossing to a depth of about 4 feet.

Another New Mexico event on July 9 occurred near La Cienega (about 12-16 miles southwest of Santa Fe) where a reported "100 foot-wide wall of water, sand and uprooted trees" destroyed most of the Gallegos Ranch lower pastures and washed away livestock along the lower Santa Fe River. A half acre stretch of chile, corn and beans and most of the ranch's lower pasture land lay under a 1- to 2-foot layer of sand the morning of the 10th. Five miles down river, nearly 15 acres of crops were destroyed. In all, at least 19 landowners were affected by the flooding with damages said to have exceeded $60,000. The water destroyed 60-year-old rock walls built by Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps and washed out a 200-foot stretch of the ranch's 40-year-old Acequia (irrigation channel). Ranch owners reported being awakened about 12:30 a.m. MDT on the 10th by the sound of water dragging tons of debris past their homes.

On the dry side, as mentioned above, South Texas remains in severe to extreme drought. July rainfalls were again well below normal,with McAllen and Falfurrias not receiving any rain. The Brownsville NWSO has received 11.8% of normal precipitation for the year to date through July. The NWSO has not seen a month with normal rainfall since November 1995. Rainfall of 1.45 inches from January 1-July 31 is the driest first seven months of any year. The previous record was 2.11 inches in 1953. Statistically, the wettest time of year is approaching. Nearly 45% of the annual rain in deep South Texas falls between the middle of August and the middle of October. Keep your fingers crossed.


Patton Persistently Pounding the Pavement. NWSFO San Antonio Service Hydrologist John Patton continues with his busy summer agenda. He met with the manager of the Upper Guadalupe River Authority (UGRA) to discuss support and operations between the WGRFC, the UGRA, and NWSFO San Antonio. The UGRA manager requested John's presence at a flood warning coordination meeting to be held in August. John has also been involved in talks with the Lower Colorado River Authority involving an interagency cooperative sharing of the "Informix" database software. On August 2, John spoke at a statewide "Hamfest," a meeting of ham radio operators in Austin, Texas.

AWIPS Preparations in Shreveport. Craig Ross reports the successful installation of the SHIMS 4.02 software with an almost completed database. According to Craig, if all goes as planned, by the end of August NWSO Shreveport will be ready for the hydrologic component of AWIPS.

A-Jack-of-All-Trades. The service hydrologists and hydrologic focal points across the Southern Region continue their exceptional work while taking on increased workloads--juggling operational forecast shifts with their own hydrologic shifts, conducting site surveys, equipment maintenance and repair, learning and loading various software applications and database programs, and conducting interagency coordination field trips to better serve users. Their hard work is appreciated. An example of some recent field trips by our service hydrologists includes the following: Buzz Merchlewitz of Memphis who traveled to a co-op station at Enid Dam in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a river gage in Sarah, Mississippi; assisted in the installation of a telemetered tipping bucket rain gage at Paragould, Arkansas; visited the Memphis Corps of Engineers and toured farmland in Caruthersville, Missouri, where recent flooding led farmers there to amend their routine farming techniques (more on Buzz's talk below).

Tommy Thompson of Jackson traveled to Coal Bluff Park, Goshen Springs, and Ross Reservoir July 9, then to Prentiss, Pearl River at Monticello and Columbia July 11, and attended a meeting at the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers July 26.

Bob Carle, fresh off a three-week vacation, met with the emergency manager of Dale County, Alabama, and the Mayor of Newton, Alabama.

Hydrologic focal point T.J. Turnage, doubling as the acting WCM in Midland, conducted two storm surveys--one in Van Horn, Texas, and the other in Presidio, Texas. While on the storm survey in Presidio, T.J. met with John Lee, the project manager of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IB&WC). T.J. reports, "We spent a great deal of time talking about hydrologic matters related to the Presidio area."

From Nashville, Mike Murphy visited a flash flood-prone area of Rutherford County, Tennessee, where a recent 4- to 5-inch rain caused the East Fork of the Stones River to rise nearly 24 feet.

Missouri Farmers All A'Buzz. Recently, Buzz Merchlewitz (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Memphis) was invited to speak to a group of farmers in Caruthersville, Missouri. The farmers had become accustomed to the Mississippi River flooding early enough each spring to not adversely impact their late spring planting. However, the past six years have seen five late spring floods on the Lower Mississippi which caused the farmers to rethink their planting decision. They asked Buzz to give them and a group of local businessmen an in-depth presentation addressing the factors surrounding Mississippi River floods in their area. They specifically requested information on how the weather patterns creating the floods of the 1990s differed from those of the 1980s, how man-made projects have impacted flooding, the Mississippi River forecasting process, and how farmers and local businessmen can obtain weather and river information to help them better make spring planting decisions.

Buzz toured the area in question with one of the farmers who gave him a "crash course" in the farming techniques used. He then researched the climatologies of the 1980s and 1990s, contacted Dave Reed (HIC, LMRFC) to ask him to present the river forecasting portion of the talk, and downloaded a plethora of information from the home pages of the Office of Hydrology and the Climate Prediction Center.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours with Buzz briefing on the NWS mission regarding river flood forecasting and warning and how the NWS, USGS, and the Army Corps of Engineers cooperate in this function. Buzz then explained how the Ohio River contributes 60-65% of the flow to the Lower Mississippi River. He pointed out that "The Great Flood of 1993" did not produce flooding in the Lower Mississippi River, mostly because the flood was over the Upper Mississippi and Missouri Basins and not the critical Ohio Basin. Lastly, Buzz informed his audience how easy it was to retrieve data from the Internet where critical river and weather forecast and warning information can be disseminated. Dave Reed then stepped in to educate the group on the hydrology of the Mississippi and Ohio River Basins.

The reviews were rave with all in attendance anticipating a successful spring planting in 1997.


WSR-88D ALPHABET SOUP. WATADS the matter...confused lately? Can't tell your RADS from your WDSS? Maybe you're just confusing your RUDDS with your RIDDS. Maybe we can help. We've included a technical attachment this week that at least is an attempt in that direction. Thanks to Tim Crum at the OSF Training Branch for providing this summary.

EXTERNAL ACCESS TO WSR-88D DATA. Last week saw a milestone, of sorts, in the NEXRAD program in our region when RIDDS (see the above item) was installed on the Houston radar specifically to allow access by a university to real-time wideband (Level II) data. In fact, this may have been the first such installation in the country, although the OSF has several others in the works. Several Southern Region sites already have the RIDDS system, including Atlanta, Fort Worth, Melbourne, Memphis, and Norman; but these installations have supported other collaborative projects involving NASA, NSSL, or the FAA.

As soon as the university--Texas A&M (CIAMS) in this case--connects to the Houston RIDDS, we will have completed a project that was several years in the making. The delay since the initial access request from the cooperative institute (CIAMS) at Texas A&M results from the need for the OSF, NWS, and other NEXRAD tri-agencies to establish a formal policy for external access, which in turn involved many agreements and decisions. We appreciate the continuing support provided by the OSF and the NWSH Office of Meteorology, as well as the patience on the part of researchers. All's well that ends well.

YOUNG SCHOLARS ASSISTANCE. Rusty Pfost (SOO), Tice Wagner (MIC), and the staff at NWSFO Jackson were instrumental in the success recently of a special "Young Scholar" program at nearby Jackson State University. The Young Scholars Program, held last June, was funded by the National Science Foundation. Twenty Jackson area high school students (sophomore and junior year) participated in science studies and related research projects at JSU. This was the first year for the project which JSU faculty hope to continue in the future. Tice and his staff were very helpful in providing time and discussion with the students when they toured the forecast office, and they also helped some of the students gather information for their research projects.

COLLABORATIVE PAPERS. Researchers at Texas A&M (the Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorological Studies) have recently published several papers of interest to forecasters. The first below stems from a need generated by NWS/Southern Region support for the Summer Olympic games in Georgia. The other papers started as class projects in Prof. Orville's cloud physics course.

A Climatology, Synoptic Assessment, and Thermodynamic Evaluation for Cloud-to-Ground Lightning in Georgia: A Study for the 1996 Summer Olympics, by E.R. Livingston, J.W. Nielsen-Gammon, and R.E. Orville (Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., July 1996).

A Comparison of WSR-88D Reflectivities, SSM/I Brightness Temperatures, and Lightning for Mesoscale Convective Systems in Texas, Part I: Radar Reflectivity and Lightning, by R. Toracinta, K. Mohr, E.J. Zipser, and R.E. Orville (Jour. of Applied Meteorology, June 1996).

A Comparison of WSR-88D Reflectivities, SSM/I Brightness Temperatures, and Lightning for Mesoscale Convective Systems in Texas, Part II: SSM/I Brightness Temperatures and Lightning, by K.I. Mohr, E.R. Toracinta, E.J. Zipser, and R.E. Orville (Jour. of Applied Meteorology, June 1996).

Rick Toracinta is continuing work on his Ph.D. at Texas A&M, and Karen Mohr has transferred to the University of Texas to begin work on a Ph.D. in hydrology.

COMET CBL MODULES AND TROUBLESHOOTING HOMEPAGE. All offices with Professional Development Workstations should have received copies of COMET's latest computer-based learning module (CBL), Satellite Meteorology: Remote Sensing Using the New GOES Imager. Joe Lamos is the COMET Distance Learning Program Manager and is always available to handle CBL-related questions ( Lara Ferraro, also at COMET, handles questions related to the PDWs.

In addition, COMET has announced a new CBL troubleshooting section on the COMET homepage. It contains information on installation, troubleshooting, and other tips related to all the CBLs. The homepage address is From the COMET home page select "The Distance Learning Program," and then select "Troubleshooting and Tips." COMET recommends you check out the "Special Notice" on the Convective Storm Matrix CBL.

OOPS (AGAIN). In the last issue of Topics we included a technical attachment that described the new GS-1340 (Meteorologist) educational requirements, or X-118 standards. Please note that Item A.2. was incorrect. Instead of "Two semester hours of physics," the requirement should have read "Six semester hours...." There is no change from the previous requirement in that regard, except the new standard calls for calculus-based physics and at least one physics course with lab.

METEOROLOGY OUTREACH. Larry Vannozzi (forecaster, NWSFO Lubbock) and SOO Loren Phillips are working with Joe Willey, an American Meteorological Society "Area Education Resource Agent (AERA)"--one of three in Texas--on the AMS DataStreme Project. The DataStreme Project is designed to instruct grade school teachers about weather. Joe teaches meteorology at Plainview High School. He, Loren, and Larry form the "LIT" (Local Implementation Team). Joe is the instructor while Loren and Larry will serve as advisors. Most of the course is taught over the Internet, but there will be three meetings of the LIT and students at NWSFO Lubbock. The students in this case are generally junior high school teachers. The first NWSFO class is scheduled for Saturday, September 14. The course will last through the fall semester and another one is planned for the spring. The course is quite comprehensive, covering everything from pollution and solar radiation to stability and tornadoes.

What of the other two Project Atmosphere AERAs in Texas? Bernard Meisner (SSD) and Gary Woodall (MSD) are working with Jerri Johnson as another LIT, while Jim Stefkovich (WCM) and Michael Mach (both of NWSFO Fort Worth) are assisting Diana Newton-Grayson. Jerri and Diana are DFW Metroplex teachers. In addition to the three meetings during the semester, each LIT member serves as a mentor for one or two of the teachers and will be in contact every week during the semester.

WSR-88D OPERATIONS CLASSES. The first week of class for the August Operations Course has begun. There were two forecasters for the September class which filled the slots made available for the Southern Region. October allocations have not been made by the OSF, but we have about a dozen meteorologists still to be trained.

METAR IMPLEMENTATION. Each office should have completed the conversion to METAR by now. As we settle into the METAR/TAF era, there are still a few lingering problems in the wake of the changeover. Another version of the MONITR and TAFDEC AFOS programs for aviation monitoring have been released for testing (at Birmingham in our region); these versions of the programs fix some more, but not all, of the problems reported so far. This version fixes the problem of improper recognition of the ceiling when the phrase FEW is used in the TAF. In addition, TDL has made some limited modifications to TAFDEC to reduce the likelihood of fatal errors which result in an abnormal termination of the MONITR program.

If no major new problems develop and the others appear to be fixed, TDL plans to send this version to all field sites by the end of the week of August 12.

TDL has discovered that because ASOS will not accept RVR in the body of a METAR report, at Level 5 airports the RVR information is being put in the RMK portion of the METAR observation. This causes SAODECII to skip to the RMK section after the visibility is decoded. Hence, nothing after the visibility gets decoded when the RVR is placed in the observation. TDL will have to make a modification to SAODECII to accommodate this. This change will be a part of SAODECII revision 12.07 which is expected to be released to the field no later than August 16.

SAC WORKSHOP. SSD conducted another in its series of "Getting to Know Your SAC" workshops at SRH last week, with attendees from eight offices. The ESAs from Lake Charles and Lubbock, SOOs from Fort Worth, Morristown, Atlanta, Amarillo and Nashville, and the SAC/AWIPS focal point from Houston participated in the three-day, hands-on session. The agenda covered a variety of topics from customizing the SAC user environment, to UNIX basics, system administration, networking and security issues. We also reviewed some basics related to SAC applications such as WATADS, N-AWIPS and the Internet (including the regional server and Southern Region frame-relay network). The attendees also visited NWSFO Fort Worth where SOO Mike Foster demonstrated how he has integrated UNIX workstations into the operations area.



MONTHLY COOPERATIVE PROGRAM REPORTS. These reports are due at the RCPS by the 10th of each month. While most DAPMs have done well in forwarding these reports on time, a few reports remain outstanding. Any reports forwarded from the RCPS will reflect "missing" if the information is not available. We will no longer be able to collect the information for you. If you have misplaced the form, please feel free to give us a call, and we will forward your office a new copy.

NEW CSSA IMPLEMENTATION. The CSSA implementation is now complete. The new software was distributed at the New Orleans DAPM Conference in July. Each DAPM returned home with the software, a new manual, and instructions for installation. The deadline for installation (August 15) was not a problem as most of the DAPMs had the new software installed by August 10. Several changes in the software and documentation will result in minor changes to the way Cooperative Program B-44 forms are processed--the major change being the electronic transfer feature.

MAXIMUM/MINIMUM TEMPERATURE SYSTEMS (MMTS). The MMTSs are in the procurement process, and some of the display units should be available by the end of the fiscal year. The first procurement for display units is in the final phase of the acceptance process. It is hoped that the procurement process for additional displays and sensors will be completed by October, with delivery likely in the spring. Each DAPM is reminded that an inventory of "excess" shelters should be forwarded to the RCPS as soon as possible.

PC-ROSA. The implementation plan was discussed at the New Orleans DAPM Conference in July. The plan includes three new computers with DTMF-ASCII converts to be installed across the region. The volunteer observers will call their observations to one of the computers using the new (for Southern Region) code. The computer will do the conversion and send the observation, in SHEF format, to AFOS for use in the near real-time processes that the NWS supports. Leon Minton and Mike Asmus will travel to Kansas City for PC-ROSA training the end of August. Installation of the computers and software should begin in September, and observers will begin sending data in the new code before the end of the calendar year.

DAPM DONNIE WINS. Donnie Sullivan (DAPM, WSFO Fort Worth) finished the "Murphy's Law Race" in first place. The race was held in Fort Worth at the end of July. For this race, a course distance is determined; however, the contestants are not aware of the distance or route until time of the race. When informed of the distance, each contestant must estimate their time needed to complete the race. The winner is not the fastest, but instead is the one who finishes closest to their estimated time. They may not have the aid of a watch. The course was 3.89 miles, and Donnie finished the race at his estimated time of 37 minutes.

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