UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas
July 1, 1997
DOC SECRETARY DALEY MAKES CHANGES IN NWS. By now everyone is aware of the changes announced by DOC Secretary William Daley and NOAA Administrator James Baker. Joe Friday has accepted a position in the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, and Robert Winokur, Director of NESDIS, will serve as Acting Director of the National Weather Service until Friday's successor is named. Also, an important part of the changes announced by Daley and Baker, was the stopping of all Southern Region Headquarters closure activities associated with the proposal to consolidate regional offices. This action stands at least for 60 days while a panel of selected advisors examines the management of the entire NWS budget and the level of support operationally necessary for the NWS.
As our field offices realize, the Southern Region Headquarters, as it has during the activities of the past seven months, remains fully operational with nearly 50 employees, and continues all of its programmatic responsibilities.
THE LATEST UPDATE IN AWIPS. New installation dates have been published for the next 21 AWIPS sites. For the Southern Region, the installation dates are:
WFO Norman...............December 1-4 WFO/RFC Fort Worth.......January 26-29 WFO/RFC New Orleans.....February 2-5
Prior to the delivery, each office will send three people to a training session (a.k.a. CUT or Centralized User Training) at NWSTC. For the most part, the ESA, SOO, and the AWIPS Focal Point will attend the sessions designed for system administration. User training (a.k.a. OUT or Onsite Users Training) will occur the week after AWIPS is installed, and trainers will be onsite to train as many people as they can.
Site surveys for the next 18 sites will begin later this summer. Southern Region sites in the next group are: RFC Tulsa, WFO Houston, WFO/RFC Atlanta, WFO Melbourne, WFO Amarillo, and WFO Miami.
BUILD 2.1. Build 2.1 was installed at WFO Tulsa on June 25. The installation had a few minor glitches, but overall, it went well. Build 2.1 introduces a few new functions to AWIPS. First, it adds functionality to the satellite component with the Fog product and with the ability of forecasters to examine the data in a satellite image by individual pixel. Second, the Interactive Computer Worded Forecast (ICWF) and Local AFOS MOS Program(LAMP) are also added to the AWIPS at three sites for evaluation, including WFO Tulsa. The ICWF/LAMP will produce tailored computer worded products based on METAR, TAF, Grid, BUFR/NGM, and MRF data. Finally, 2.1 includes some administrative message handling.
MODERNIZATION TRANSITION COMMITTEE MEETING. At their June 25 meeting in Silver Spring, the Modernization Transition Committee (MTC) reviewed the proposed consolidation certifications for Southern Region WSOs Abilene and Victoria, along with proposed certifications from the other NWS regions. As part of the review process, the MTC requested information about the impact of declines in NWS funding and the RIF on the modernization and restructuring of the NWS. Based on their review, the MTC decided they could not provide an unqualified endorsement of no degradation of service for the proposed certifications, but recommended the certifications be approved subject to the following qualifications:
As an update on the certifications which the MTC endorsed during their March meeting, including closure certifications for 26 SR WSOs, these certifications still have not been endorsed by NOAA/DOC for transmittal to Congress.
SMG RECEIVES JOHNSON SPACE CENTER GROUP ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.
SMG was given a Group Achievement Award by Johnson Space Center on June 9, 1997. This award, signed by JSC Director George Abbey, stated: "The Spaceflight Meteorology Group is commended for their professionalism, forecast accuracy, and quality performance supporting Space Shuttle landings during 1995 and 1996." The award presentation was made by Mr. Lee Briscoe, Chief of the Flight Director Office.
In presenting the award, Mr. Briscoe noted that during 1995 and early 1996, SMG contributed significantly to a record-tying seven straight Shuttle landings at Kennedy Space Center, the preferred landing site. Each KSC landing saves NASA and the taxpayers over one million dollars. In addition, Mr. Briscoe noted the inherent challenge of forecasting weather for any landing site; for example, Edwards AFB often has crosswinds that exceed Shuttle landing flight rule limits.
Also, Mr. Briscoe noted that SMG turned in quality performances despite the extreme political pressures during 1995. At that time, NASA was conducting reviews about potentially making significant changes in their weather support structure.
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS. We have successfully made it through the first month of the 1997 hurricane season. Offices across the Southern Region continue with their active hurricane preparedness programs. Some highlights are listed below....
NWSO Tampa Bay WCM Walt Zaleski was a guest speaker at the Hernando County Hurricane Expo in Brooksville, Florida. The 30-minute presentation was given for a crowd of over 250. Walt's presentation topics included the NWS' role in hurricane tracking and forecasting, personal hurricane preparedness tips, and the cooperative working relationships between the NWS, the media, and emergency management officials. Walt also staffed an NWS informational booth at the Expo, which featured brochures on hurricanes, NWS modernization, and heat index.
NWSO Corpus Christi MIC Joe Arellano and Forecaster Robert Luna were guests for an hour-long radio interview at radio stations KSAB-FM/KUNO-AM. The live interview, which was done in Spanish, focused on hurricane and severe weather preparedness and on careers in meteorology. The interview was broadcast on both the FM and AM frequencies, and featured 30 minutes of call-in questions from the listening audience.
NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge WCM Frank Revitte and WSO Baton Rouge OIC Rich Davis represented the NWS at a meeting of bank and property managers in Baton Rouge. Members of the Louisiana and Baton Rouge Emergency Management Agencies also attended. The purpose of the meeting was to provide guidance to the bank and property managers in developing a hurricane response plan for their operations. After presentations on the roles played by the various agencies during a hurricane, the group broke into smaller work teams to address specific parts of the response plan.
NWSO Melbourne WCM Dennis Decker participated in a live 30-minute hurricane preparedness program at Universal Studios in Orlando. The show was entitled "Ask the Dietician," which seems like an unusual venue for a hurricane program. The show's host, though, made the connection by describing the food and other supplies that people in hurricane-prone areas should have on hand at the beginning of hurricane season. Dennis reported that the idea and the program worked quite well.
MEDIA/EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATION. Two of the NWS' strongest customers are the local media and local emergency management officials. Southern Region offices continue their coordination efforts with these important agencies. A few highlights follow....
NWSO Lake Charles, Louisiana, hosted a day-long weather workshop for emergency management staffs in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. MIC Steve Rinard provided an introduction, a status report on NWS modernization, and facilitated a discussion on how the NWS can improve its services. WCM Roger Erickson presented sessions on the NWS hurricane program and NWS communications. SOO Felix Navejar provided an overview of Internet services and the NWSO's home page. Other facets of the workshop were led by Forecasters Ray Sondag, David Wally, and Jim Sweeney; DAPM Ellie Pittman; and Intern Anthony Perkins.
NWSFO Lubbock Service Hydrologist Steve Drillette and WCM Larry Vannozzi presented a flood and hurricane update at the annual conference of the Texas Floodplain Management Association. Steve presented case studies of two recent flood events in the Texas Panhandle and informed the attendees (approximately 100) about all Texas HSA's and local hydrology contacts. Larry presented Dr. Gray's hurricane forecast and gave some tips on accessing hurricane information on the Internet. Before the conference, about 30 of the attendees toured the NWSFO facility.
NWSFO Memphis WCM John White participated in a day-long Weather Training Workshop for Emergency Managers in southeastern Missouri. Northeast Arkansas Emergency Managers were also invited to the workshop. Topics discussed during the workshop included basic meteorology, EMWIN and pagers, weather information sources, fundamentals of Doppler radar, and advanced storm spotter training. John reported that the class was well received and those in attendance requested a similar workshop next year.
NWSO Amarillo WCM Doug Crowley and the Amarillo staff participated in a disaster exercise with several Texas Panhandle counties and the Pantex Plant, a nuclear weapons disassembly facility. Participants included local, state, and federal agencies, hospitals, and volunteer groups. The exercise was a detailed simulation of an F3 tornado moving across eastern Amarillo and through the Pantex plant, resulting in overturned vehicles, a fire, and a hazardous materials incident at the plant. On the day of the exercise, a real F3 tornado struck the eastern Panhandle, prompting some of the exercise participants to commend the AMA staff for their excellent forecasting!
COMMUNITY/PUBLIC OUTREACH. Some news and notes from around the Region....
Jackson State University's Meteorology School hosted a National Science Foundation Young Scholar's program. As part of the program, the NWSFO Jackson staff conducted a half-day seminar for area high school students interested in meteorology. Bill Knight, Greg Garrett, Pat Brown, Rusty Pfost, Tom Thompson, and Jim Butch participated in the seminar. The Young Scholars viewed videotapes on the NWS and weather, took part in discussions on weather careers, and examined Doppler radar images. The seminar concluded with HMT Lynn Gilmore helping the scholars prepare and release a rawinsonde.
NWSO Corpus Christi WCM John Cole participated in the "Market Day" activities in Goliad, Texas. Several other local companies and law enforcement agencies participated by setting up booths and exhibits around the county courthouse. John used the NWSO CRP tabletop display and also showed hurricane and severe storm videos. About 75 people visited the display. John also had an opportunity to coordinate with the Mayor and the County Emergency Manager. Goliad was the site of one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, when 114 people were killed in May of 1902.
DISCONTINUATION OF LOCAL FORECASTS. The "Local Forecasts" (LFP) for seven Southern Region cities will be discontinued on the date shown below. This will bring the total to 46 LFPs discontinued and 12 remaining.
Local Forecast for Discontinuation Date
Fort Smith 7-1-97 Tulsa 7-1-97
Lake Charles 7-17-97 Montgomery 7-17-97
Baton Rouge 7-30-97 New Orleans 7-30-97 San Juan 7-30-97
MAJOR TEXAS HILL COUNTRY FLOOD EVENT. On Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22, tremendous rains associated with a slow moving upper low pressure system fell across the Texas Hill Country, much of south central Texas and the Texas Coastal Bend area. Storm total precipitation amounts as high as 21 inches (near Bandera) were measured during this extreme event. Rivers and creeks throughout the area were sent into flood with widespread damage to communities, roads, and bridges.
A flood of record occurred on the Llano River at Llano where a stage of over 38 feet was reached. This exceeded the previous flood of record (September 10, 1952) by over 6 feet. Maximum discharge during the height of the flood was over 327,000 cfs or 95,000 cfs greater than the 1952 flood.
Harder hit areas included campgrounds along the Frio River where no lives were lost, but as many as 20 people were rescued from tree tops by helicopters and a man with a kayak; Schertz, where the Pecan Grove mobile home park was devastated (again no lives lost); and the Highland Lakes areas where widespread home, campground, and dock damage resulted. The Graveyard Point subdivision of Lake Travis had homes under as much as 21 feet of water. Here, again, no deaths were reported. The four deaths (preliminary) that did occur (one resulted from a man driving around a barricade into a flooded Hondo Creek) were all in areas covered by flash flood warnings.
NWSO San Angelo, NWSFO San Antonio, and the West Gulf River Forecast Center staff worked many hours handling the event. The phenomenally minimal loss of life resulting from this event is testimony to the timeliness and accuracy of the forecasts, watches, and warnings issued by these offices.
NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS
Alsheimer Activities. NWSO Tampa Bay service hydrologist Frank Alsheimer continues his work on a climatology of the rivers in his HSA and on a comparison of 88D rainfall estimates from the KTBW and KMLB radars. Frank also arranged for the Lee County Public Works office to pay for telemetry and data logger equipment for two NWS rain gages. This will allow the Tampa Bay staff to access this data in real-time, which, in turn, will help calibrate 88D estimates and enhance warning effectiveness.
More Florida Coordination Activities. NWSFO Miami hydrologic focal point Jere Gallup has had discussions with the South Florida District of the USGS in Miami regarding the siting and funding of an expanded telemetered rain gage network in South Florida. The USGS already has numerous data platforms in place for measuring ground water levels and surface water flows.
Rio Grande Rises. The third week of May brought unusually heavy rains to the southwestern part of NWSO Midland's HSA, as well as to northwestern Mexico. Runoff from these rains produced rises on the Rio Grande above, at, and below Presidio, Texas. Aggravating the situation were large releases on the Rio Concho in Mexico by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IB&WC). While no bankfull stages were reached on the Rio Grande, the rises were covered by the NWSO Midland through the issuance of river statements with data provided by the IB&WC.
More Wet Weather. May was the third month in a row with much above normal precipitation recorded over south Texas. NWSO Brownsville hydrologic focal point Alfredo Vega and forecaster Richard Emmanuel report that Rio Grande City received 9.31 inches of rain in May (6.55 inches above normal) which brings their 1997 total to 17.37 inches or 10.49 inches above the year to date normal. Typical March through May rain totals in deep South Texas are near five inches, while 1997 March through May tallies are averaging 13.70 inches or three times the normal.
A bit farther north, Mark Lenz (hydrologic focal point NWSO Corpus Christi) reports that through May, Victoria, Texas, has received 37.87 inches of rain. This is 0.46 inches above the annual normal for Victoria or 300% of normal January through May rainfall. The record for annual rain in the city is 59.57 inches set back in 1919. Stay tuned.
Mississippi Mud. Also in May, heavy rains were reported in parts of Mississippi. NWSFO Jackson senior service hydrologist Tommy Thompson reveals normal rainfall for May ranges from 3.8 to 5.8 inches in the Jackson HSA. May of 1997 has been significantly wetter than normal with Bay Springs establishing a record of 14.02 inches (old record 10.13 inches in 1953). Other impressive May rain totals included 11.21 inches at Hattiesburg, 10.27 inches at Elliot, and 10.21 inches at Purvis.
WATADS. By now, most offices are well aware of the WSR-88D Algorithm Testing and Display System (WATADS), provided by the OSF. This is a user-friendly software package developed by NSSL which displays WSR-88D base data and executes and displays algorithm output. Input to WATADS is the recorded Level 2 data, which is easily obtained from the NCDC archive (through SSD). Most offices use WATADS in conjunction with the SAC (Science and Applications Computer), HP-715 workstation. We have included a technical attachment this week which provides an overview of the latest version (v 9.0) of WATADS. A good example of how WATADS might be used for local development efforts is illustrated in a second technical attachment from NWSO Tallahassee (see the following paragraph).
SOO NEWS. Parks Camp is an FSU meteorology student working on a senior project under the direction of Dr. Henry Fuelberg and NWSO Tallahassee SOO Irv Watson. Parks' study involves six years of cloud-to-ground lightning data, stratified by wind regimes and time of day. On June 27 he presented his findings at NWSO Jacksonville, sparking a lively interaction of ideas on patterns of convective development in the Jacksonville area. Plans are to submit the soon to be completed Tallahassee portion of the study to Weather and Forecasting, and the Jacksonville portion will be spun off for a technical memorandum. This work is part of Dr. Fuelberg's COMET Cooperative Project and it demonstrates how research results can be shared among offices.
Meanwhile, Irv Watson (SOO) and others at NWSO Tallahassee and the Ft. Rucker (Alabama) USAF base prepared a paper for the upcoming AMS Radar Conference. Their subject is the importance of coordinated use of NWS and DoD radars. We've included their preprint paper as a technical attachment this week. The added perspective of a DoD radar which views a severe storm from another perspective--and perhaps closer range--can make a critical difference in warning action. That's no surprise, of course, but it is a point worth restating. Note also in this paper how the NSSL WATADS software may be used to produce WSR-88D displays in grey shades, which will help minimize the need for costly color copies.
JARRELL TORNADO STUDIES UNDERWAY. Staff at NWSFO Austin/San Antonio are investigating several aspects of the devastating F5 tornado which struck Jarrell, Texas, on May 27. Carl Morgan (intern) has completed a preliminary study of the storm's motion in relation to a high CAPE - low shear environment. We have included his study as a technical attachment this week.
The tornado was also monitored closely by researchers at the Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorological Studies, who had just initiated a field experiment called the TEXACAL (Texas A&M Convection and Lightning) program. All the TEXACAL radars were up and running, providing the opportunity for dual Doppler studies of the tornado. CIAMS researchers have already been in touch with offices at Austin/San Antonio and Fort Worth, and with SSD and the OSF. Modeling, dynamical, and lightning studies are planned with the unique data set that was obtained, all aimed at improving warnings for future storms. It is anticipated that early results will be available in time for presentations at the September AMS Radar Conference in Austin.
WINTER WEATHER CLIMATOLOGY. The June (current) issue of Weather and Forecasting contains the paper "A Climatology of Significant Winter-Type Weather Events in the Contiguous United States, 1982-94," by Mike Branick (NWSFO Norman). Mike notes that his findings are intended to assist in developing operational forecasting issues such as staffing requirements, forecast formats and lead times, and local and regional winter weather preparedness activities. His work has been in conjunction with the Storm Prediction Center (SPC), which is currently addressing many of these issues in preparation for their operations next winter.
Mike also sent us more detailed monthly climatological summaries of winter weather which supplement his article. Both the article and monthly summaries have been sent to all WFOs and CWSUs. It's a little early to start worrying about winter weather, but Mike's work will provide an excellent familiarization tool when the time comes. Thanks, Mike.
COMET COOPERATIVE PROPOSALS.The COMET (Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training) has issued its annual Outreach Program request for proposals. This program provides support to universities for Cooperative and Partners projects. In each case, university faculty and students work on mutually beneficial collaborative projects with staff at NWS offices. The deadline for universities to submit applications to COMET is October 20, 1997. All applications should be coordinated with SSD, because they require the Regional Director's endorsement before they are sent to COMET. SSD should receive at least draft copies of proposals by September 1.
Cooperative Projects are usually multi-year efforts which may involve several individuals at a university and an NWS office, and they have been funded at about $25,000 per year. Partners Projects are smaller, one-year efforts usually addressing a specific problem and involving only one faculty member and one forecaster. They are funded in the $5,000 range. More information about this program, including application procedures, may be found on COMET's Web site at http://www.comet.ucar.edu/outreach/outreach.html.
FSL IN REVIEW. NOAA's Forecast Systems Lab (FSL) in Boulder, Colorado, conducts research and facilitates the transfer of new technologies and science developments into forecast operations. Everyone knows by now, of course, of FSL's efforts with the NWS to integrate WFO-Advanced into AWIPS. The FSL staff is also involved in many other projects, including wind profilers, LAPS/MAPS model development, the RUC, ACARS, and many more acronyms than we care to list here. A very good--and certainly colorful--summary of their activities over the past year is contained in the latest copy of "FSL in Review (FY 1996)." If your office did not receive a copy, you should be able to find it, and additional relevant information, at FSL's Web site.
While there, check out these FSL Web links of particular interest:
the NOAA Wind Profiler Network (WPDN) real-time data display.
the interactive hourly precipitation map.
the satellite image loop page.
the WFO-Advanced page.
the AWIPS Forecast Preparation System (AFPS) home page.
These links may also be found on the Southern Region Headquarters Weather Information Web page.
RAOB DATA. We've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating since we frequently receive requests for raob data to support local studies. NCDC has published upper-air data on CD-ROMs which SSD has provided to all offices. In addition, data for the past couple of years--which may not yet be available on CDs--may be accessed from FSL's on-line database. This is easier and much quicker than requesting the data from NCDC. Try the following Web site:
EL NIÑO ON THE WEB. The Climate Prediction Center of NCEP has issued an ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation) Advisory noting that strong warm episode conditions have developed in the tropical Pacific. Sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies continued to increase during the first three weeks of June, accompanied by a further weakening of the low-level equatorial easterlies. During the first half of June, the easterly winds collapsed over the entire equatorial Pacific (160E-100W, 5N-5S), and actual westerlies developed in the region. The only other time that this has happened in the last 30 years was in mid-November 1982. SSD has developed a Web page with links to many sources of El Niño information. Select El Niño Links from the Southern Region's Weather Information Web page.
IMPACTS OF EL NIÑO. SSD recently provided a summary to all offices which describes effects we might anticipate across the region as a result of the present El Niño. Offices were asked to amend the summary as necessary and release it as a local public information statement. That summary is included as a technical attachment to this week's Topics. It's easy to find a lot more related information on the Web, but here is a particular source to check out: the "El Niño Resources" page provided by Florida State's Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS), headed by Dr. James O'Brien. The Web site is http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/lib/elninolinks/. Click on "Articles Online" to view a variety of related papers. One of those is titled "Impacts of ENSO on United States Tornadic Activity," by Mark Bove. Among other things, Mark and Dr. O'Brien show evidence that El Niño correlates with a decrease in tornadoes during the spring in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
TO CELL OR NOT TO CELL. Did you know, on the average, a long distance call using the FTS2000 calling card costs the government about 3.5 cents per minute? Using a cellular telephone for the same call can cost $1.50 per minute or more (depending on the range of your call). Even local calls on cellular telephones start to add up when the initial monthly "free air time" is used up. The point is, only use the cellular telephone for long distance calls when it is absolutely necessary. There are pay phones almost everywhere!
In any case, it is Southern Region Headquarters' policy to only use cellular telephones for official business; to minimize the use of the cellular telephones; and to utilize the FTS2000 calling card whenever possible. This policy applies to both incoming and outgoing calls to the cellular telephone.
TWO-THIRDS MARK. The two-thirds mark has been reached for exchanging cc:Mail messages over the frame relay. In Southern Region, 20 of the 30 offices now have cc:Mail post offices using the NTROUTER program on their Windows NT 4.0 Servers. These offices exchange messages every 15 minutes. NWSO Corpus Christi is next on the list for this program. By the time you read this, the count will be 21 offices.
UPPER AIR STATISTICS. Attached to this issue of Topics are the Upper Air Statistics for May 1997. On this monthly statistic table, you will notice some new numbers. In the number of soundings column (#OBS), the number after a slant (/) is the number of special soundings taken for the month. In the multiple release column (MLTPL REL), the numbers indicate as follows: the number of second releases/the number of third releases/the number of unsuccessful releases. For informational purposes, the 500mb missed column (500MB MISB) is derived from the MANSUM and is expressed as a percentage and not as the number of soundings missed. You should note that this percentage is derived from a sampling of soundings within the month and not from all of the soundings taken during the month. The stations marked with an asterisk (*) have out-of-date RMS values. If your RMS is older than "3/30/97," a new RMS needs to be completed as soon as possible. Southern Region Headquarters' policy is for RMS to be determined every quarter but not to exceed 90 days. If you have any questions or suggestions, please call Gene Witsman at (817) 978-4967.
SURFACE INSPECTION REPORT. The annual station inspection report is due at Southern Region Headquarters for all station inspections completed through June 30, 1997. This report is a summary of the inspection program from each CWA for the past 12 months. Please make every attempt to get this report forwarded to the Surface Program Manager no later than July 10.
PC-ROSA UPGRADE. All Southern Region systems received a PC-ROSA upgrade during the week of June 23. This upgrade improves the stability and reliability of the system by minimizing busy signals. Additionally, one extra telephone line, in rotary with the existing 800 number, was added to the NWSO San Angelo, NWSO Shreveport, and NWSFO Jacksonville systems.
NATIONAL AWARD WINNERS. The volunteer observers selected to receive the 1997 Thomas Jefferson Award and the Campanious Holm Award have been announced.
The winner for the Thomas Jefferson Award:
Estes B. Bozeman of Winnfield, LA
The winners for the John Campanious Holm Award:
Grady A. Bright of Melrose, NM
Denis C. Decker of Menard, TX
Laheeta Harvey of Pedernal, NM
Adam C. Melton of Searcy, AR
Beulah Stout of Piedmont, OK
John W. Teeter of Prescott, AR
While this list contains the observers who received the national awards, all nominees for this year's competition were excellent. Selecting seven observers, out of all those nominated, was an extremely difficult process. We should praise all of the observers for the excellent work they provide.
THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN UPDATE. Attached to this issue of Southern Topics is a Thrift Savings Plan Fact Sheet Update. Open Season closes July 31, 1997. Use employee express to make all changes, (912) 757-3083 or 1-800-627-6281.
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