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Fort Worth, Texas

May 15, 1997



HIRAM P. "PAUL" MAGEL (1954-1997). Our good friend and colleague, Paul Magel, passed away on Tuesday, May 6. Paul suffered a heart attack nine days prior to his passing and never regained consciousness. He is survived by his mother and a 17-year-old son.

After a four-year tour in the Navy, Paul began working for the NWS in 1977 at WSO Houston. He then served in Waycross, Georgia; Las Vegas, Nevada; Point Barrow, Alaska; Ft. Smith, Arkansas; and in 1994 became an HMT at NWSFO Tulsa.

Paul was an exemplary employee, especially in working on the cooperative observer program where he excelled. The people Paul contacted on the job were instantly his friends. A coworker commented, "If you stood around long enough, Paul would see to it that you became part of the conversation." This ability established a friendly connection within seconds and made him a tremendous ambassador for the NWS. Paul was a good friend to all those whose lives he touched. His gifts of friendliness, kindness, and dedication to his family and his job are seldom seen in today's fast-paced, self-serving world. Paul was one-of-a-kind, and we will miss him greatly.


SLIDELL VISITORS. MIC Paul Trotter reported they had a recent visit from Lee-Horng Leu, Marine Meteorology Center (Ministry of Transportation and Communications) in Taipei, Taiwan Republic of China, and Dr. Chung-Chu Teng, Ocean Engineer/Project Manager at the National Data Buoy Center. Dr. Teng is a Slidell resident and has been for ten years. This was his first visit to NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge. Mr. Leu is a marine forecaster and was interested in seeing a field station. He also plans on visiting NCEP when he goes to Washington, D.C. They met most of the operational staff and spent time at LMRFC. Both came out with a little more understanding of how all the pieces fit in the overall weather picture.

DISCONTINUATION OF LOCAL FORECASTS. The "Local Forecasts" (LFP) for the Miami and Palm Beach areas were stopped May 13. Thirty-eight Southern Region LFPs have been discontinued and 20 remain.

SOUTHERN REGION OFFICES GEARING UP FOR HURRICANE SEASON. In less than three weeks, the 1997 hurricane season will begin. In anticipation of the event, coastal offices across the Southern Region are shifting their hurricane preparedness programs into high gear.

NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge MIC Paul Trotter participated in a hurricane preparedness town meeting sponsored by a local television station. Other participants included local TV meteorologists, hurricane hunter crew members, and local emergency managers. After the formal presentations, the participants took telephone calls from the viewing audience. Five more town meetings are scheduled in the NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge county warning area from mid-May through mid-July.

NWSO Corpus Christi MIC Joe Arellano and WCM John Cole were guest speakers at the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station disaster conference. Both Joe and John made presentations on topics related to hurricane climatology, preparedness, and predictions for the 1997 hurricane season. Approximately 40 people related to emergency operations at the base were in attendance, along with emergency managers from local and state agencies.

NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge WCM Frank Revitte made a hurricane preparedness presentation at the Naval Support Facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi. Frank's presentation covered hurricane climatology, a risk assessment for the Pascagoula area, forecast responsibilities of TPC/NHC and the NWSFO, and tropical weather products. Other presenters included Richard Pasch from TPC/NHC, hurricane hunter crew members, and local emergency managers.

SEVERE WEATHER PREPAREDNESS. With severe weather season nearing its climatological peak across the Southern Region, many offices are continuing with their hazardous weather campaigns. Congratulations to all of our offices on their efforts in spreading the preparedness message. Some highlights follow.

NWSO Tampa Bay MIC Ira Brenner, WCM Walt Zaleski, SOO Charlie Paxton, and service hydrologist Frank Alsheimer hosted a day-long seminar and workshop for staff of the Pinellas County Emergency Management Agency. The seminar began with an overview of the benefits of close coordination between the NWS and EMs presented by Ira. Walt provided a review of NWS products and services, with an emphasis on severe weather and hurricane scenarios. Frank discussed the various non-tropical flood products and services provided by NWS offices, and Charlie described ASOS and the Florida Mesonet. The seminar was deemed a success, as both the EMs and the NWS staff gained a greater understanding of each other's responsibilities.

NWSO Midland ASA Karen Fago, in cooperation with American Red Cross chapters in Midland, Odessa, and Lubbock, arranged for 100 "Thunder Buckets" to be given away by several local television stations. The "Thunder Bucket" is a preparedness kit containing useful information and other supplies often needed when severe weather threatens. The "Thunder Buckets" were given away during the morning and evening weather telecasts.

NWSO Amarillo WCM Doug Crowley reported that the Area Severe Weather Workshop hosted by the NWSO was a major success. Approximately 425 spotters, emergency managers, and media personalities attended the event. Guest speakers included Bob Johns of SPC, Erik Rasmussen of NSSL and Project VORTEX, and photojournalist Warren Faidley. Many of the attendees were impressed with the content of the workshop and were appreciative of the quality of the speakers who shared their knowledge at the program.

NWSFO Fort Worth FIC Alan Moller gave a three-hour workshop on storm structure at the NWA Severe Storm Conference in Des Moines. The conference was sponsored and hosted by a Des Moines-area television meteorologist. Roughly 250 people attended the conference, including many television and radio meteorologists, NWS meteorologists, storm spotters, and hobbyists. In all, nearly 25 severe weather experts made presentations at the conference, including such notables as Dr. Charles Doswell and Les Lemon.

NWSFO Fort Worth staff have really been pounding the pavement recently in the area of school outreach. Jim Stefkovich, Roland Nuñez, Jesse Moore, Alan Moller, Skip Ely, Greg Machala, and Krista Villarreal have spoken to about a dozen different school groups over the past few weeks, with a total attendance of over 1,000. Topics have ranged from basic weather principles, to severe weather safety, to involvement in the AMS DataStreme project.


SHIMS 4.11 DISTRIBUTED. A new version of the Service Hydrologist Information and Management System (SHIMS) has been released. The updated manual (version 4.11) was distributed to all Southern Region offices the week of May 12. It is intended to be a comprehensive document that serves as a system manual, user's guide, and reference manual. This version of SHIMS and its documentation will facilitate the transition to the WHFS HydroBase database for AWIPS deployments. The SHIMS 4.11 software has recently completed beta testing and has already been distributed to all Southern Region field offices.


Palmer Update. Most recent Palmer Drought Index values suggest soil moisture remains above normal over all of Oklahoma, most of Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, and parts of New Mexico, Alabama, and Tennessee. Drier than normal conditions exist over southern Florida, southern Georgia, and western New Mexico.

Southwest Florida Drought. NWSO Tampa Bay service hydrologist Frank Alsheimer has been keeping us up-to-date on the nearly year-long southwest Florida drought through his monthly activity and E-5 reports. A recent issue of U.S. Water News also highlighted the drought. The article revealed that below normal rainfall has been registered during the past 11 months, with rainfall deficits at nearly one foot. Stream and groundwater levels are near record low levels. Of particular concern are Charlotte County and the city of North Port which get their water from the rainfall-dependent Peace River. As of early April, the river was at just 15 percent of its normal level.

A silver lining may have appeared late in the month, though. On April 26, torrential rains of four to six inches were recorded in 24 hours, causing substantial urban flooding. The 24-hour rain total of 5.44 inches at Tampa International Airport helped the station establish an April record of 10.71 inches.

Arkansas Flash Floods. On April 5 and 6, 24-hour rainfall amounts of five to eight inches caused widespread flash flooding over southern Arkansas and northern Louisiana. NWSFO Little Rock service hydrologist Steve Bays reports that 26 counties were declared federal disaster areas. Preliminary damage estimates to roads and bridges alone yield $3.5 million. NWSO Shreveport service hydrologist Craig Ross says that the 10- to 13-inch rain amounts reported in 24 hours were near to slightly above the 100-year return interval. Four people perished in the flash floods. Three of the deaths involved cars being washed away. The fourth death was a 38-year-old male who perished while he and six friends tried white water canoeing down the swollen North Fork of Cadron Creek. The six survivors were pulled to safety by rescuers. During the rescue, six of the rescuers had to be assisted to safety because their boats overturned.

Good News in South Texas. NWSO Brownsville hydrologic focal point Freddy Vega says that April brought a continuation of above normal rainfall over the HSA. He reports, "A record 14 days of measurable rainfall was received at the Brownsville Weather Office during April. This marks the most days of measurable rainfall for the month of April since records began in 1878."

Beneficial rains also fell over the Falcon Reservoir watershed. The city of Zapata, along the reservoir, received 4.22 inches of rain for the month, with the dam site receiving 5.18 inches. This was nearly four inches above the monthly normal. The rains caused a 2.25-foot increase in the water level during the month, with a nearly five-foot increase registered since March. The reservoir, however, remains about 32 feet below its normal level.

Northeast Florida Rivers Rise. Heavy rains over northeast Florida caused sharp rises on rivers toward the end of April. NWSO Jacksonville hydrologic focal point Kent Kuyper says that Black Creek rose from 2.82 feet on April 26 above its 16-foot flood stage to 17.02 on the 29th, while the St. Mary's River at MacClenny went from 3.92 feet on the 27th of April above its 12-foot flood stage to 13.89 feet on the 30th. These rises were a result of a three-day rain event which concluded with one-day rain totals in excess of four inches.


Rivers Run Through It. "River Season" traditionally begins April 1 and runs through June each year in New Mexico. NWSFO senior service hydrologist Ed Polasko says that his office issues a SHEF-coded RR2 product and a public RVA product daily during this three month period. These products help the office better monitor snowmelt runoff and flood potential. The public oriented RVA includes a synopsis of expected weather conditions and how streamflow and unregulated river flow will be affected. The product is also accessed by water managers at state and federal levels for indications of peak snowmelt periods. The RR2 and RVA products are completed daily by Ed or a staff HMT.


Stage III on the WEB. The LMRFC will soon begin displaying hourly stage III precipitation data as GIF images on its Internet homepage. In order to provide the stage III gridded data to its external users (specifically the TVA), LMRFC will provide the data in XMRG format to its cooperators as an interim until a GRIB format can be supported. HIC Dave Reed expects to have the stage III GIF images on line by the end of May via the URL:


SUPPORT FOR SPC/NSSL WINTER WEATHER EXPERIMENT. Last winter, NWSFOs Jackson and Lubbock assisted NSSL and the NCEP Storm Prediction Center (SPC) in evaluating experimental forecasts that will help to better define how SPC will provide meaningful winter weather guidance to all offices, probably starting next year. SOOs Loren Phillips (Lubbock) and Rusty Pfost (Jackson), working with SPC SOO Bob Johns, set up the evaluations. The NWSFO forecasters were able to give timely feedback during the experiment which allowed SPC and NSSL to establish a sound foundation for the basic philosophy, issuance frequency, and format for those products. Based on NWSFO feedback, the format and content of the test products were modified about one-third of the way through the experiment. This is the type of constructive collaboration among forecast offices and the national centers that will ensure future guidance products meet operational needs.

NEW TECHNICAL MEMORANDA. Three new Southern Region technical memoranda were distributed to all offices last week. They are:

An Investigation of Isentropic Vertical Motion Fields and Their Relationship to Observed Precipitation Patterns Over the Southeast United States During the Winter of 1993-1994 (NWS SR-186), by Kevin W. Brown (NWSFO Norman) and Tom Bradshaw (NWSFO Birmingham)

An Evaluation of River Forecast Model Output for Simulations with and without Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts (QPF) (NWS SR-187), by William B. Reed, Billy G. Olsen, and John A. Schmidt (Arkansas-Red Basin RFC Tulsa)

A Severe Weather and Hurricane Climatology for the WFO Corpus Christi County Warning Area (NWS SR-188), by Paul Spaulding (NWSO Corpus Christi)

SATELLITE "PICTURE OF THE DAY" DISCUSSION. The NESDIS cooperative institute folks at Colorado State University (CIRA) who developed RAMSDIS have created a web page with a GOES "Picture of the Day" discussion/tutorial. Even those offices without RAMSDIS computers can access the page for interesting items. The URL is:

Some interesting recent examples have generated feedback and E-mail comments from many SOOs and forecasters--sort of an "on-line" satellite training class.

TEXACAL. From mid-May until the end of June, NWSO Houston and NSSL are cooperating with Texas A&M (the Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorological Studies) on TEXACAL--Texas A&M Convection and Lightning--field project. Professor Mike Biggerstaff will lead the project, along with other principal investigators Mike Eilts (NSSL), Houston MIC Bill Read, and SOO Steve Allen. The study will look at many aspects of radar applications, lightning, and precipitation in South Texas convective storms. Special emphasis will be on testing and validating performance of the WSR-88D Damaging Wind Algorithm. SSD worked with the OSF to arrange support for that effort, which includes university access to wideband data from the Houston WSR-88D.

Derived wind fields will be used to validate convective/stratiform echo classification schemes as part of NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), which will also rely on Level-II radar data from many Southern Region radar sites. NASA has installed the TOGA 5-cm Doppler radar for TEXACAL about 40 km from College Station to provide dual Doppler radar observations with the Houston WSR-88D and Texas A&M's "Aggie" Doppler. Two special sounding systems will also be used, one at A&M and another at NWSO Houston.

PRESIDENT'S AWARD. Congratulations to Florida State University Profs. Kevin Kloesel and Paul Ruscher. They are recipients of the university's prestigious President's Continuing Education Award for developing Florida EXPLORES! This outstanding K-12 educational program provides real-time satellite imagery and other data to schools Florida-wide, along with classroom instructional materials and teacher training in order to enhance science interest and understanding among young people. Paul and Kevin are also faculty members of the FSU/NWS Cooperative Institute for Tropical Meteorology (CITM). NWSO Melbourne assisted in this effort by providing a means to collect weather observations from schools around the state and make those available to the Florida educational communications network. The staff at Melbourne has also assisted in teacher education during annual workshops at nearby Cape Canaveral. The data collection effort shifted to NWSO Tampa Bay (Ruskin) with the relocation of the south Florida service hydrologist position.

BIRD TALK. Dr. Sidney Gauthreaux from Clemson University visited NWSO Corpus Christi on Earth Day (April 22) and provided a seminar on the ornithological uses of radar. Dr. Gauthereaux's radar studies extend back many years, and he is well known at Southern Region offices along the Gulf Coast. He discussed results from his research and demonstrated the usefulness of Doppler radar data in studying how large-scale weather systems and topography influence hawk migrations and how that in turn affects civil and military aviation. NWSO staff, visitors from NWSO Houston and NWSFO Austin/San Antonio, and several local bird enthusiasts--13 in all--enjoyed the presentation.

MIAMI TORNADO. No doubt most everyone saw on TV the remarkable videos of the tornado that stuck downtown Miami last week (May 12). That had to have been the best "art" television networks have had in years. Spielberg could not have done it any better. (Maybe Twister II?) Miami MIC Paul Hebert reported that the NWSFO fielded calls from all over the country wanting to know more about the unusual event. Here are a few related details offered by Paul:

The Atlanta Constitution asked if this was the first tornado in Miami? Actually, Dade County (Miami) and Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) each average two tornadoes a year. A June tornado in 1959 touched down within the Miami city limits (quite possibly the first ever?), and another in February 1968 passed over Paul Hebert's house before touching down in northeast Dade County (where most of the 1959 damage occurred). The injuries from just those two tornadoes (77 in 1959, and 21 in 1968) comprise most of the severe weather injuries for Dade County from 1959-1996 (total of 118)! The only killer tornado in Dade County struck Hialeah in March 1925, and Broward County has also had only a single killer tornado (in 1980). The 1968 tornado was an F2 and the others F3.
COMET MODULES. The COMET computer-based learning (CBL) modules are now being produced on CDs. The original half-dozen or so CBLs were designed to be used with a laser disc, and at this time there is no plan to convert most of those to CD format. Included are the following:
  1. Doppler interpretation
  2. Boundary detection
  3. Heavy precipitation
  4. NWP
  5. Extratropical cyclones
The Office of Meteorology has provided funds to allow offices to upgrade the newer PDW (Professional Development Workstation) to Windows 95, but it will be necessary to maintain the older (original) PDW and laser disc player in order to utilize the above CBLs.

Concerning COMET's CBL development work in general, budget reductions this year and permanent reductions expected next year mean the NWS will be funding only one CBL production team at COMET. (Other teams are funded by DoD, the GOES program, and international activities.) Top NWS priority for new CBL development during the remainder of FY97 and in FY98 will be the Convective Track CBLs to support the convective watch decentralization effort. (See the last issue of Southern Topics.) Starting in late FY98 and into FY99 the priority will change to support precipitation forecasting as we begin to implement probabilistic QPFs. Parts of some modules will be updated as new CBLs are produced. The concept of modules will change significantly as we go to web-based distribution, smaller learning segments, and a common data server at COMET with links to training materials at NWSTC and the OSF Training Branch, universities, individual WFOs and RFCs, NESDIS, ERL labs, and so on.

FSL'S ACARS WEB PAGE AVAILABLE TO ALL NWS OFFICES. The NOAA Forecast System Laboratory (FSL) has made available to all NWS offices Web browser access to the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Recording System (ACARS) data. The URL is Everyone with a domain name ending in "" should be able to access the page. If you have problems accessing the page, go to and use the "Visitor Information" link to show the relevant information about your computer's connection.

Users may display the data--primarily temperature and wind, although a few aircraft report moisture and turbulence--by date, time, location and altitude. Plan views of wind and ascent/descent soundings may also be plotted. Restrictions on use of the ACARS data have not changed. These are proprietary data and cannot be shared (via Web pages or other methods) with any third parties.

SOUTHERN REGION VERSUS "SKY BLUE." In the ongoing "chess game" of forecaster versus the atmosphere, we have moved a RAMSDIS workstation from NWSO Tulsa to NWSFO Birmingham. The availability of satellite data on all AWIPS workstations at NWSO Tulsa has precluded the need for the RAMSDIS workstation there, and the installation of the RAMSDIS at NWSFO Birmingham will help that office prepare for AWIPS, at the same time making digital satellite data centered on the middle of the Southern Region available for neighboring offices via the regional Frame Relay network. Birmingham forecaster Tom Bradshaw also serves as a regional focal point for GOES Assessment activities.

REVISED VERSIONS OF SHARP AND WISE SOFTWARE AVAILABLE ON SRH SERVER. Greg Jackson (NWSO San Angelo SOO) has contributed revised versions of the SHARP and WISE software to the SRH server. The software are available in the /ext1/download directory for those with Frame Relay access. Those who access the SRH server via modem may download the data by choosing the PC Applications Software menu item.

The SHARP (5/97) revision fixes a problem with the misassignment of 700 mb heights in cold weather by adding 2000m instead of 3000m to 700mb MAN code when it is at least 500. This version no longer uses the DOS SORT.EXE command or the RAOB3.DIR, RAOB4.DIR, and RAOB5.DIR files (RAOBS.DIR is used instead as a temporary file). There is no longer a 900 file limit to the number of sounding files that may be in the RAOBS directory at one time, and the program will no longer crash if the CURRENT.DAT, SKEWT.DAT, or RAOB5.DIR files are missing.

In the WISE version 5.30 template files, one can now list zones selected for a statement in the following format:

             IN STATE
		      ...ZONE A... ZONE B... ZONE C

by including [ZONELIST2] in the template file. One can also prepare bullet-style warnings with WISELOC.

TECHNICAL ATTACHMENTS. This week we've included tech attachments from George Wilken (SOO, NWSFO Little Rock) and Chris Buonanno and Kevin Brown at NWSFO Norman. George provides a summary of an unusual lake-effect snow in northern Arkansas. Chris and Kevin offer an analysis of a mesoscale Oklahoma heavy snow band produced by altogether different reasons--frontogenetical forcing and CSI acting together.

TECHNICAL PROCEDURES BULLETINS. Below is a list of TPBs that are in various stages of completion at NWS Headquarters. NWSH expects to have at least some of these available as web documents soon. It seems likely that printed versions of the TPBs will be discontinued, but users can always print copies if needed from the web versions.

Current DRAFT Technical Procedures Bulletins
        431.    East Coast Extratropical Storm Surge and Beach Erosion Guidance
	432.    Ultra-Violet Index
	433.    Great Lakes Wind and Wave Guidance
	434.	Great Lakes Storm Surge Guidance
	435.	Sea Ice Drift Guidance
	436.	East Coast Storm Surge and Beach Erosion
	437.	Probability Forecasts of Aircraft Icing
	438.	FOUS Messages from the Eta
	439.	NGM-Based MOS Wind Guidance for Alaska
	440.	Automated Ice Concentration Analysis
	441.	Changes to the Eta Model


RADAR UPDATE. On May 8 the National Weather Service accepted its latest WSR-88D in Fort Smith Arkansas. The RPG and PUP are in Tulsa, with another PUP being delivered to NWSFO Little Rock by June 1.

The northeast Alabama radar is scheduled for installation and checkout (INCO) by the end of May, with acceptance in early July. Southern Region also decommissioned the Abilene WSR-74C. Only five WSR-74Cs remain in operation in the Southern Region. We hope to have all of them decommissioned by the summer of 1998.

Version 9.1 of the NEXRAD software has been delivered to the field. Some offices have already begun installing the new software that clears up a lot of narrowband communications problems. SRH is working with two of its offices and the OSF on a communications problem involving a RIDDS computer. We will be checking other offices with RIDDS to see if this is a unique problem.

UPDATE OF NOAA FORM 37-1. Betty Bales sent a memo last month with guidelines for amending NOAA Form 37-1. Please remember that any NOAA Form 37-1 purchase orders that have any numbering system other than the NA//WBF///// format should be changed at the five-year review point or if the purchase order is amended for other purposes. New purchase order numbers can be obtained by calling Gene Witsman (W/SR41x5) or Lily Garcia (WSR5x3).

INFORMS. Each administrative assistant has a copy of the latest Informs program (Informs 4.1). All offices should utilize the Informs software to prepare NOAA Form 37-1. In the very near future we will begin to electronically transfer these forms via cc:Mail. Only one copy of the form should be sent to SRH for signature.

TELEPHONE COMPANY REFUND CHECKS. We regularly receive refund checks from the telephone company. In the past, these checks were sent to MASC and the money was not credited to the NWS. If you receive a refund check, you should return it to the telephone company and ask that the amount be applied to one of your active accounts with that company. Gene Witsman has a sample letter available which he will fax on request. Remember to make a copy of the check before returning it to the telephone company.

Southwestern Bell Telephone checks should be returned to the following address with a letter requesting the reassignment of the credit:

Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
4 Bell Plaza, Room 1600
Dallas, TX 75202

You should contact your local telco for the exact address and procedure for other telephone companies.


SURFACE OBSERVATION PROGRAM QUALITY CONTROL. Since the conversion to METAR, NCDC no longer provides error reports from the surface observation forms submitted each month. The responsibility to quality control these observations has been shifted to the local office. This includes reviewing the observations from SAWRS/LAWRS sites within the CWA and providing correction reports (B-14) to NCDC and the observation site. Many of the contract observing sites use these reports to supplement observer training.

COOPERATIVE PROGRAM PC-ROSA TRAINING. A PC-ROSA training session was held at NWSFO Birmingham on May 14, 1997. Representatives from several surrounding forecast offices attended the training. With this training session completed, the Southern Region is quickly approaching the end of the installation phase of PC-ROSA conversion. The old touch-tone system is being phased out as the cooperative observers across the region are trained and switched to the new system for the near real-time data reporting.

50-YEAR NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE COOPERATIVE SERVICE AWARD. The 50-Year National Weather Service Cooperative Service Award was presented to Chevron Pipeline on May 2 by Eddie Brite, John Frazar, and Ray Fagen (NWSO Midland). A small ceremony, which included cake and punch, was attended by several longtime Chevron cooperative observers.

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