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Fort Worth, Texas

December 15, 1996



HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL. We wish all Southern Region personnel and their families the happiest of holiday seasons. Tremendous progress toward better public service has been made in the region during the past year, and it is apparent in a review of the past year's significant weather events. You all contributed to those accomplishments. Contributions by the region have also been recognized by many awards. An award review is attached to this Topics. We can all be proud of working in and contributing to the National Weather Service Southern Region.


KUDOS TO NEW ORLEANS. PRC, GTE, NWSH, and SRH descended upon NWSFO/RFC New Orleans for their AWIPS Site Survey December 3-4. The offices were extremely well prepared for the survey with floor plans for the equipment room and the operations area. Of course, all the preparation paid off with a very quick, but thorough, survey. The offices will be receiving a Site Survey Plan in about a month which they will review and make appropriate changes.

FLOOR PLANS. It may seem like AWIPS deployment is really no closer than it was six months ago, but it is never too early to prepare. We have attached the floor plans from WFOs New Orleans and Tulsa to this issue of Topics to give you some ideas. For those offices with little space to work with, it is even more important to start making plans now to accommodate the equipment. NWSFO/RFC New Orleans purchased an inexpensive computer program for designing floor plans. They used it extensively in developing their floor plans and updating them during the survey. If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas about your floor plan, Cyndie Abelman will be happy to discuss them with you at (817) 978-2367, Ext. 124.


NOAA HURRICANE CONFERENCE. Gary Woodall (WCM, SRH) attended the NOAA Hurricane Conference December 2-5 at NHC. The conference focused on recent research conducted by the Hurricane Research Division and operational issues affecting TPC/NHC, NWSH, the regions, and the field offices. Operational issues which were discussed included coordination between NHC, field offices, and local Emergency Managers, refining the coastal watch/warning breakpoints, and evaluating our procedures for the inland effects of hurricanes. More information and specific action items will be made available in the near future.

NWSO CORPUS CHRISTI ASSISTS DISASTER EXERCISE. The staff of NWSO Corpus Christi provided weather support to the San Patricio Emergency Management Coordinator, amateur radio operators, and other agencies in support of a recent disaster exercise. The exercise focused on a hazardous material incident and served to test emergency response as well as the area's new amateur radio network. The NWSO staff provided weather information--primarily wind observations and forecasts--every 15 minutes to the exercise staff. The drill's organizer commended all who participated, noting that joint efforts are necessary for an effective emergency response.

RED CROSS HURRICANE TRACKING MAPS. Linda Kremkau, WSH, reported that the American Red Cross (ARC) has changed their policy regarding the duplication of their hurricane maps. The maps may be duplicated without ARC's permission. The ARC still prefers for their logo to be reproduced in red, but their new graphic standards allow the logo to be reproduced in black (i.e., photocopying) if that is the only option.

WARNING DISSEMINATION SUPPORT. Bruce Burkman (WCM, NWSO Shreveport) assisted the Ouachita Parish Emergency Management staff with a warning verification study for the parish. The study will aid in funding for improved warning dissemination systems in Ouachita Parish, including the cities of Monroe and West Monroe. Bruce reported that the study went well and that the information provided should be helpful in enhancing the dissemination systems.

FLASH FLOOD PREPAREDNESS BROCHURE. Earlier this year, Southern Region offices received copies of the Office of Hydrology's new flash flood preparedness video entitled "The Hidden Danger, Low-Water Crossings." To complement the new video, the Office of Hydrology (OH) has prepared a brochure. Each office should be receiving copies of the brochure. Additional copies are available from NLSC (request NOAA/PA 96074). A sample of the brochure is included as an attachment to this edition of Topics. Thanks to OH for making this important preparedness information available.


COORDINATION MEETING. A coordination meeting between the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA), and NWS was held at the RFC/NWSFO Fort Worth on December 10. NWS offices having representation included NWSO San Angelo, NWSFO San Antonio/Austin, NWSO Houston, NWSFO Fort Worth and WGRFC. Southern Region Headquarters had representatives from MSD and HSD, and the Regional Director participated in part of the meeting.

The drainages of the Lower Colorado River and the Guadalupe River include most of the Texas Hill Country, an area of frequent fast-response and devastating floods. A strong working relationship between LCRA, GBRA, and the NWS exists. This meeting was held to further define the roles and responsibilities of the various parties and to enhance the cooperation in fulfilling data collection, warning service, and warning dissemination missions. A list of approximately 20 action items was agreed to. A follow-up meeting will be held in approximately six months.

NORTH TEXAS FLASH FLOOD. On the night of Saturday, November 24, thunderstorms associated with a slow moving cold front advancing through an extremely moist airmass dropped from 5 to 7 inches of rain over parts of North Texas. Much of the rain fell in just a few hours between 9:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. CST. The torrents caused flash flooding of creeks, with many roads becoming impassable throughout northern and western Tarrant County and Parker and Denton Couties. Four fatalities resulted from three separate incidents. In Denton County two people drowned when their car was swept into Pecan Creek, and a man drowned when his car was swept into Cooper Creek. In northern Tarrant County, a woman drowned after her car was swept into Bear Creek. Flash flood warnings for western Tarrant County and all of Denton County issued by the NWSFO Fort Worth were in effect at the times of the drownings.


Heavy Rains and Flooding in the Arklatex. November rain totals approaching 14 inches fell across northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma causing significant flooding along the Red River in Shreveport. A 27.5-foot crest occurred on the 29th, the highest since a 34.5-foot crest during the great flood of 1990 (flood stage is 30 feet). Casino riverboats line the shores of the Red in Shreveport. The flood caused one casino to close operations for several days, including the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Revenue losses for the casino will top $1 million. NWSO Shreveport service hydrologist Craig Ross notes:

Development of the riverfront in Shreveport continues in association with the dockside gaming industry. As a result, flooding problems on the Red River in Shreveport will continue to multiply as mankind develops in the flood prone areas.

Heavy Rains in Western Tennessee. NWSFO Memphis service hydrologist Buzz Merchlewitz reports that this past month was the third wettest November in Memphis since records began back in 1872. The airport received 11.46 inches of rain. The record for November is 14.53 inches set back in 1906. Several rivers in the Memphis HSA did go into flood, and the Mississippi River maintained a steady rise throughout the month due to excessive rains in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys.


Three Site Visits Are Better Than One. NWSO Midland hydrologic focal point T.J. Turnage and NWSFO Lubbock service hydrologist Steve Drillette made a site visit to Dryden, Texas. On the way, the two stopped by the Girvin (GIVT2) gage to photograph work they had completed on a previous trip. They also made their way to the Sheffield (SPCT2) gage to install staff gage markers and estimate bankfull and flood stages for the site.

T.J. reports that while November contained above normal precipitation for the Midland HSA, the area remains well below normal in terms of annual rainfall perpetuating a trend that began in 1993.

Dry in Lubbock, too. Steve Drillette reports that rainfall for November was also below normal. This marks the third month in a row with below normal rainfall for Lubbock. As noted in the last issue of Topics, this continues a trend of four years of below normal rainfall for Lubbock.

A Few Miles Makes all the Difference. Just a bit to the south and east of the Lubbock and Midland HSAs, Amy McCullough (WSO San Angelo hydrologic focal point) reports that annual rainfall totals are above normal. Amy notes that 3.35 inches of rain fell at San Angelo's airport in November, bringing the annual amount to 22.45 inches. This is 2.79 inches above normal. In Abilene 2.44 inches fell in November, bringing the annual tally to 28.96 inches, or 5.59 inches above normal.

Forecasting a Good Duck Hunting Season in Arkansas. In northern Arkansas, up to three times the normal monthly rainfall fell in November. Service hydrologist for NWSFO Little Rock, Steve Bays, reports that stages on the Buffalo, White, Black, Ouachita, and Arkansas Rivers were similar or higher than the 1993 floods. Steve adds the high water in November and December is actually a blessing in Arkansas. The reason is that unharvested soybeans have become a feeding ground for ducks. This, combined with the cool autumn and winter seasons, suggests a banner duck hunting season for the state. Duck hunting in Arkansas is a multimillion dollar industry.

Possible Water Woes in Western Florida. Frank Alsheimer (service hydrologist, NWSO Tampa Bay) reports that drier than normal conditions across the Tampa Bay Area HSA were reported in November. Frank's numbers reveal from 25 per cent to 50 per cent of normal rainfall was recorded during the month. The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is warning people in west central Florida that tighter restrictions on water use may be needed this spring if rainfall amounts continue below normal for the next couple of months.

Frank plans on traveling to a number of his river forecast points during the next year. In anticipation of these trips, Frank sent an E-mail to his staff offering them the opportunity to accompany him on some of the visits. These trips can be quite revealing for forecasters not familiar with the subtle terrain features that can impact river and flash flooding.

Training and Talking in Tennessee. NWSO Nashville service hydrologist Mike Murphy presented an overview of NWS hydrologic services and discussed specific hydrologic responsibilities of NWSO Nashville with the office's new meteorological intern. Farther east, NWSO Morristown service hydrologist Brian Boyd and SOO Steve Hunter visited with Emergency Management officials and the public at a meeting in Scott and Claiborne Counties. The two counties were impacted by flooding over the Thanksgiving Holiday.


WGRFC to Work with the National Ocean Service (NOS). Dave Morris (HIC, WGRFC) has reached an agreement with the NOS to provide five-day streamflow forecasts to them as part of their effort to implement a nowcast/forecast hydrodynamic model of Galveston Bay. NOS representatives are scheduled to meet at WGRFC on January 27 to iron out the final details. Also at that meeting will be an exploration of model extensions which might support NWS surge forecast requirements in the Houston Ship Channel and up the San Jacinto and Trinity Rivers.

Louisiana Water Agencies Meet. On December 4, Marty Pope (senior hydrologist, LMRFC) and David Smith (service hydrologist, NWSFO New Orleans) attended a meeting on hydrologic data collection in the state of Louisiana. The USGS in Baton Rouge hosted the NWS, Corps of Engineers, and several state agencies to discuss the development of a statewide database of hydrologic data collection sites.

TPC Visits LMRFC. Brian Jarvinen and Vic Wiggert from the Tropical Prediction Center (TPC) met with members of the LMRFC and NWSFO New Orleans on December 5 to discuss the storm surge up the Mississippi River during a hurricane. Using the SLOSH model, TPC has developed the projected river stages at Point a la Hache on the Mississippi River for over 1600 different hurricane scenarios. These scenarios were based on various direction, speed, and strength (category) of the hurricane when it was expected to make landfall. Based on the TPC official forecast track, NWSFO New Orleans will provide the LMRFC the five most representative scenarios. LMRFC will then use hydrographs from the scenarios which produce the lowest and highest peak stage at Point a la Hache as boundary conditions in the DWOPER model to simulate the movement of the surge up the Mississippi River. LMRFC will provide the NWSFO hydrographs and crests for each scenario at New Orleans and Baton Rouge on the Mississippi. These crests will be used in coordination efforts with federal and state agencies prior to hurricane landfall.

Trip Report on the Web. The staff at ABRFC has placed details of a recent site survey to the Beggs River Basin located in central Oklahoma on their home page. The URL of the site survey is and offers the Websurfer a detailed look at the Deep Fork River in flood. Numerous photographs, hydrographs, and isohyetal plots accompany easy to read and understand text outlining the trip, the event, and the river's response to heavy rains that fell early in November. Also on the ABRFC home page is a photo gallery with pictures of all river forecast points in the ABRFC forecast domain. The URL for this site is:

WGRFC Web notes. WGRFC hydrologist Chris Bovitz spent a great deal of time and effort composing a "Making a River Forecast" section on the WGRFC home page. This is a witty and fun, yet informative, description of the thoughts and processes involved in making river forecasts at a river forecast center. The URL is:

This is a good Web site for forecasters and interns to visit if they wish to learn more about the river forecasting process.


SOO NEWS. Earlier this month Charlie Paxton (SOO, NWSO Tampa Bay Area) visited the Cooperative Institute for Tropical Meteorology at Florida State for the primary purpose of providing a seminar and defending his Masters thesis. Charlie's subject was "WSR-88D Algorithm Performance During the Intense Cyclogenesis of March 1993." He provided an overview of radar algorithms and discussed how they functioned at Sterling, Virginia, and Melbourne, Florida, during the event. There were some algorithm problems in processing velocity data, such as too much range-folded and improperly dealiased data, and in detection of signatures associated with tornadoes. As part of his analysis, Charlie suggested how to reduce some of these problems.

Charlie used the visit to discuss several areas of potential collaboration among CITM faculty and NWSO staff. Dr. Kevin Kloesel is involved with the Florida Department of Forestry, and plans are to automate MM5 model runs to produce Fire Danger Ratings with a goal of developing an automated spot burn forecast system. Charlie discussed the role of NWS Tampa Bay office in providing fire weather and wildfire spot burn forecasts for both state and federal foresters. Access to the MM5 output for mesoscale forecasting would be especially helpful to the NWSO.

Dr. Kloesel also heads the Florida Climate Center at FSU, and NWSO work with Florida mesonetwork data is an obvious area of mutual interest. Archiving and providing on-line access to those data is a logical goal. Other areas of mutual interest involve the Florida Explores program, the AMS DataStreme project, and the Florida Student Weather Network (FSWN) program, in all of which areas the NWS is working in partnership with FSU/CITM. Finally, Charlie had an opportunity to judge a poster session that was part of Prof. Kloesel's Mid-Latitude Synoptic Meteorology course. Students prepared conference-type posters based on topics they had studied in the class. Their results were judged on presentation and content.

ON-LINE REPORTING. On December 5, Frank Brody (MIC, Spaceflight Meteorology Group) did an interview with Fox News Internet. The story was about SMG and the Shuttle landing wave-off that day. It appeared only on the Fox News Internet web page. They tape recorded the interview and embedded "sound bytes" into the Web page story. Perhaps the most unique thing about the interview was that Frank and the reporter simultaneously surfed the SMG and NASA/Shuttle Web sites in order to provide additional information for the story. In fact, the reporter imported graphics from these Web pages to use in her story. The resulting story was "posted" for one day on the Fox News Web site ( This type of thing has great implications for quick publicity and access for other NWS stories. It requires only sensitizing the Internet news services to the availability of NWS people and services that are available "on-line."

NWA MEETING PRESENTATIONS. The Southern Region was well represented at the 21st Annual Meeting of the National Weather Association in Cocoa Beach, Florida, in early December. A summary of papers and posters is included as a technical attachment this week. Congratulations to all who were involved in making this one of the best NWA meetings yet, including the staff at NWSO Melbourne, many of whom were involved in planning and arrangements for the meeting.

In addition to the many papers and posters, Southern Region representatives received four significant NWA awards. See a summary in the first attachment of this Topics.

LOCAL SEMINAR. Bob Johns (SOO, NCEP Storm Prediction Center) conducted a seminar at NWSO Tampa Bay Area (Ruskin) on December 5, following his involvement in the NWA annual meeting across the state. Bob briefly explained the role of the SPC and how it will be evolving. He discussed tornado forecasting based on storm-relative winds, and he also reinforced the NWSO forecasters' knowledge of local severe weather climatology. Seminar participants discussed spin-up mechanisms and radar signatures related to small, yet strong, low-level tornadic circulations associated with the recent tropical storm Josephine. Having the opportunity to tack the seminar onto the end of a trip Bob was already making made this an economical, yet very beneficial, learning experience for both Bob and the local forecasters. Thanks for the extra effort, Bob.

NEW TALLAHASSEE AREA AMS CHAPTER. Also taking advantage of travel to the NWA meeting in Florida, recently retired NSSL Director Bob Maddox visited NWSO Tallahassee and Florida State University on the way home to provide the inaugural program for a new Big Bend Chapter of the American Meteorological Society. MIC Paul Duval and the NWSO staff were instrumental in developing the chapter, which is a direct descendent of the long-lived former FSU student chapter. The new chapter will draw on university, as well as NWS, USAF, and public interest.

The organizational meeting was held at FSU's Supercomputer Computations Research Institute. Bob described his recent work which involves why otherwise similar storms may produce a lot of--or very little--lightning. It turns out that chaff dropped by the military may be a factor in what amounts to inadvertent weather modification.

NWSTC UNIX/AWIPS TRAINING. The NWS Training Center maintains a library of approximately 40 courses for the purpose of self-study in UNIX and related topics. These materials are available to all NWS employees. The courses cover a broad spectrum of topics ranging from introductory UNIX to advanced UNIX programming, along with specialized topics such as networking, databases, security, shell scripting, and X Windows. The available courses are listed in the AWIPS Lending Library Catalog which is available via the Internet at, or contact Pat Darrah at NWSTC (816-374-6326, Ext. 252).

Most of the materials are either video-based or Computer Based Training (CBT). Library materials are "checked-out" for a specific duration of time (generally two-week increments, which may be extended upon request). Some of the courses have optional examinations for certification. To check out a course, the student fills out a Remote-Training Request Form indicating the desired course. The form is also available for download at NWSTC's home page or can be requested by phone. The materials will be shipped by NWSTC within two working days of receipt of the request form.

SPELL-CHECKING. We noted the following in the November 1996 issue of The Office Professional magazine. They attributed it to the "Information Age" column of the Wall Street Journal on August 4, 1992. We think it speaks for itself.

I have a spelling checker. It came with my PC.
It plainly marks four my revue, Mistake I cannot see.
I've run this poem threw it, I'm sure your please to no.
Its letter perfect in it's weigh, My checker tolled me sew.

WSR-88D SEMINAR. Les Lemon, who for many years has been involved in development of the WSR-88D with Lockheed-Martin (formerly UNISYS), visited NWSF/RFC Fort Worth and the Southern Region Headquarters this week to provide seminars on--what else--WSR-88D topics. Les's professional roots are deep in NOAA; and his years of radar experience, along with his knowledge of NWS operations, enables him to provide valuable assistance to forecasters. His seminar topics included recent work on three-body returns (hail spikes) and deep convergence zones. While visiting, Les also addressed the local AMS chapter and shared insights into the 1957 Kansas-Missouri F5 tornado, which not incidentally he cited as the event which stimulated his interest and eventual career in dealing with severe storms.


SAODECII, CHKSFCOBS Updated, New PROCAES Program Issued. The Techniques Development Laboratory (TDL) recently updated the surface observation decoder (SAODECII) as well as the program that checks ASOS observations (CHKSFCOBS). There was a serious error in the decoder program, and the CHKSFCOBS program was enhanced and modified considerably to provide greater utility for ASOS quality control. In addition, a new program (PROCAES) was issued that can be used in conjunction with CHKSFCOBS to provide daily statistics on ASOS problems.

These programs were sent on AFOS from the Techniques Development Laboratory and were described in a WSHADMTDL message of December 9. All offices should have received the message and the necessary files; any office receiving files that they cannot load and/or are missing the ADM message should contact SSD.

All offices should install the new SAO decoder as soon as possible, and we highly recommend the use of the other programs as well for ASOS quality control purposes. Questions should be addressed to Gordon Hammons at (817) 978-2671.

TROPICAL WEATHER WORKSHOP. As part of the Operational Support Facility's series of advanced training, the Tropical Weather Workshop will be held in Norman January 7-9, 1997. A Technical Attachment in this issue of Topics lists the titles of talks to be given by the Southern Region participants at the workshop. It appears that our region is ready to make a very active contribution to the workshop.

NEW TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM. Charlie Paxton, Rocco Pelatti, and Elaine Powell (NWSO Tampa Bay Area) authored NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-181, Radiosonde Climatology of West-Central Florida, which has been distributed to all offices. They used a 36-year climatology of 1200 UTC upper air observations to develop monthly extremes and averages of heights, temperatures, dew points, relative humidities, and winds. Average Skew T diagrams and stability indices were also developed to provide insight into the typical atmosphere over west-central Florida.



AFOS CLEAN-UP. The Request for Change to remove the products from most of the spin-down WSOs is in production. It is a very lengthy document but is organized so NWWS customers should only have to make changes once, thus reducing their costs. You can expect to the see the AFOS Change Notice after the first of the year.

NEW VIRUS SOFTWARE LICENSE. NOAA has acquired a site license agreement for VirusSCAN by McAfee Associates to replace the previous one with NORMAN Software. It is readily available via the Internet and is updated monthly. Leon Minton has sent instructions to all ESAs on downloading the software for use throughout the region. This license also covers your home PCs in an effort to eliminate viruses before they get to the office.

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