UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas

May 1, 1996

SOUTHERN TOPICS


REGIONAL DIRECTOR

TECHNOLOGY EXCELLENCE AWARD. I am very pleased to note that Greg Jackson, NWSO San Angelo SOO, has received the 1996 Technology Excellence Award from the Interagency Committee on Information Resources Management. Greg will be honored at an awards banquet at Bolling AFB, Washington, DC, in June. This prestigious honor recognizes Greg's achievement in developing the WISE, SWIFT, FLEXNOW, and SUPERFLEX programs that significantly increase the speed with which NWS forecasters can disseminate information to the public. Congratulations and well done, Greg.

DAVID A. CARMAN, 1946-1996. We are saddened to learn of the sudden death of David Carman, Lead Forecaster at NWSFO Jackson, from an apparent heart attack, May 2. Prior to working in the NWS, he was a pilot in the Air Force. He worked in the NWS Fruit Frost Program in Lakeland, Florida, during the early 1970s, then transferred to WSO UCR Riverside July 20, 1975. In April 1994 Dave transferred to NWSFO Jackson. He is survived by his wife, Peggy, their son, Quinn, and daughter, Lora. His family may be addressed at 155 Dove Cove, Canton, Mississippi, 39046.


TRANSITION MANAGEMENT UNIT

NWS MODERNIZATION STATUS (APRIL 26, 1996)

Facilities occupied 94%

Stage 1 staffing complete 87%

WSR-88Ds commissioned 80% (of those delivered)

CWA transfers 91%

Radars decommissioned 61%

ASOSs commissioned 68% (of those delivered)

MODERNIZATION TRANSITION COMMITTEE MEETS. At their April 24 meeting, the Modernization Transition Committee endorsed the consolidation certifications for WSOs Apalachicola, Bristol, Daytona Beach, Del Rio, Knoxville, Pensacola, Port Arthur, Tupelo, Waco, and West Palm Beach.

METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES DIVISION

SHUTTLE DOCKS WITH RUSSIAN MIR. The Space Shuttle Atlantis roared from the Kennedy Space Center launch pad on a picture perfect weather day March 21 at 0813 UTC. The flight had been moved back one day, due mainly to high sea states in the booster recovery area. Borderline RTLS crosswinds forecast and the short 6-minute launch window also were considerations in the one-day wait.

A small hydraulic leak that developed in one of the backup hydraulic systems required more stringent weather rules than usual for landing (CIG/VSBY/CROSSWIND of 10k / 7mi / 10kts).

Atlantis had a successful docking with the Mir Space Station on Saturday, March 23, at 8:34 p.m. (CST). Docking ceremonies were performed by the American/Russian crews, and Astronaut Shannon Lucid transferred to the Mir, which will be her home for 4 months.

Atlantis astronauts viewed Comet Hyakutake early on the morning of the 26th. The 27th featured a six-hour space walk by Mission Specialists Linda Godwin and Rich Clifford. This marked the first extravehicular activity (EVA) around the Mir by American astronauts.

The Spaceflight Meteorology Group (SMG) weather team was tested to the maximum on Saturday, March 30. Low clouds, showers, and some fog combined in a potpourri of changeable weather. Two deorbit opportunities existed, but acceptable weather did not exist for quite long enough to land at KSC. After the second waveoff, there was a problem with the payload bay doors. Flight Controllers at JSC came within ten minutes of ordering Atlantis to perform an emergency de-orbit to Edwards AFB, California.

Two more attempts were made to land at KSC on Sunday, March 31; but low clouds and fog thwarted those attempts, and Atlantis glided to a perfect landing at Edwards AFB at 1329 UTC.

Steven J. Sokol was the Lead Forecaster for STS-76, working his 64th mission (12th as mission lead). The Assistant Lead was Richard Lafosse. The Lead Techniques Development Unit meteorologist was Mark Keehn.

SMG PRESENTATION. Karl Silverman (SMG), Johnson Space Center, made a presentation to the Lone Star Hot Air Balloon Club of Houston in mid April. His topic was SMG's support of NASA's Space Shuttle program. There were 30 people in attendance. The Lone Star club is one of the major sponsors of the annual Ballunar Lift-Off, a three-day event held at Johnson Space Center which attracts over 10,000 people.

HURRICANE TOUR FAST APPROACHING. On May 5, representatives from SRH, NHC, and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC) will assemble in Harlingen, Texas, to begin the 1996 Gulf Coast Hurricane Preparedness Tour. The tour will make five stops at cities along the coast: Harlingen (May 6), Galveston (May 7), New Orleans (May 8), Mobile (May 9), and Fort Myers (May 10). One of the NOAA WP-3D research aircraft will be used to transport the team from city to city.

The theme of this year’s preparedness tour centers on the hurricane threat and the actions people can take to ready themselves and their families for the threats of the season. The tour will be much more heavily dependent on media coverage than in previous years, with numerous interviews and photo opportunities planned. In addition, the tour will have a stronger emphasis on student preparedness. While a portion of the team is conducting the media outreach activities, the remainder of the team will be leading student groups through a short briefing on hurricanes, a tour of the P-3, and a visit to other hurricane/emergency-related attractions at the aircraft site.

This promises to be an eventful and exciting week for those on the tour and for those offices serving as hosts for the tour stops. We’ll report on the tour’s outcome in a later edition of Topics.

REGIONAL/NATIONAL WCM CONFERENCES. Preliminary plans are under way for the 1996 Southern Region Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) Conference in Fort Worth and for the 1997 National WCM Conference. Within the next month, Regional WCM Gary Woodall will begin laying the groundwork for the regional conference, tentatively scheduled for October. Meanwhile, Gary, Larry Vannozzi (Lubbock) and Fred Johnson (Jacksonville) are members of the 1997 National Conference Planning Committee.

Look for more updates on the conferences in future editions of Topics.

AMARILLO MEDIA WORKSHOP. In April, NWSO Amarillo hosted a severe weather workshop for the area media. The workshop was well attended, with the chief meteorologists from all three networks and most of their staffs participating. WCM Doug Crowley provided an introduction and opening comments, while MIC Jose Garcia gave an overview of the MAR’s impacts at Amarillo. Doug then led a discussion on the warning process and the media’s role in dissemination. The technical aspects of severe weather were then addressed, as forecaster Steven Cobb and SOO Rich Wynne led sessions on mesoscale analysis and WSR-88D interpretation, respectively. The session closed with a general question and answer session. Doug noted that the workshop was successful, and all who participated came away with a better understanding of their agency’s relationship to others in the severe weather warning process.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATION. Activities have been continuing across the region as we move through severe weather season and toward hurricane season.

Frank Revitte and Paul Trotter from NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge and Dave McIntosh from NWSO Lake Charles attended the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Meeting in Covington. Dave gave a 20-minute presentation on hurricane preparedness, while Frank’s program centered on the status of MAR in Louisiana. Frank emphasized the role of the WCM as the “external affairs” contact for the office, and he gave an introduction to SAME and EMWIN as methods of receiving data. Dave and Frank attended two separate “breakout” sessions, which were open-forum discussions with local Emergency Managers. Frank noted that these sessions were well received, and the EMs seemed pleased with the services provided by the modernized offices.

Rafael Mojica and Shawn Bennett (WSFO San Juan), along with Max Mayfield and Brian Jarvinen (TPC/NHC), conducted a hurricane planning workshop at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The two-day workshop covered several subjects relating to hurricane forecasting, preparedness, and response. The sessions also focused on the experiences and lessons learned from 1995's Hurricane Marilyn. Members of the media were also in attendance, and several TV interviews were given dealing with hurricane preparedness and the WSR-88D.

HITTING THE JACKPOT. WCM Larry Eblen of NWSFO Austin/San Antonio (EWX) had a hugely successful meeting with representatives of the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The LCRA wishes to fund two new NWR transmitters in the Texas Hill Country, including an offer to construct any auxiliary buildings needed for the transmitters and an offer to pay any recurring electricity costs at both sites. LCRA offered use of their microwave system (at much lower recurring costs than phone lines) for getting the NWR signal from EWX to the transmitter sites. LCRA also invited the EWX staff to participate in their new 900 MHz mobile phone net, which covers the northeastern half of the EWX CWA. Thus, emergency calls to the office or coordination calls to local officials can be made at essentially no cost. The LCRA officials offered to work with EWX regarding the time and location of power outages, which can be of assistance in documenting downburst events or tornado touchdowns. Finally, the LCRA staff indicated they would like to listen in on the EWX amateur radio spotters, and would consider providing space on their towers for amateur radio repeaters in return.

MEDIA COORDINATION. There have been many media-related activities across the region the past few weeks. Below are a few of the highlights.

CBS-TV visited NWSFO Fort Worth to prepare a feature story on storm chasing and the role played by chasers in enhancing NWS spotter training and hazardous weather warning systems. The news crew conducted a one-hour interview with lead forecaster Al Moller. The crew also shot some stock footage of the office’s operations and some of the staff members on duty. Al noted that other noteworthy chasers, including Tim Marshall and Howie Bluestein, were interviewed for the story as well.

The Weather Channel (TWC) made a visit to NWSFO Lubbock to obtain stock footage and interviews with MIC Andy Anderson and WCM Larry Vannozzi. Members of the Lubbock spotter team, the Fire Marshal’s office, and other departments were also interviewed. The footage will be used for a special series prepared by TWC on how various groups prepare for severe weather. Larry noted that the national TV exposure became a story in itself. All three Lubbock network TV affiliates did stories on TWC’s visit, filming the TWC crew while TWC was filming the NWSFO staff.

NWSO Midland hosted a half-hour special entitled “The Fifth Season” with the three weathercasters of the Midland/Odessa NBC affiliate. WCM George Mathews and SOO Brian Francis provided interviews describing storm spotter training, the WSR-88D, and severe weather climatology. The status of MAR in the Permian Basin and the “Thunder Bucket” project were also featured during the program.

Bruce Burkman of NWSO Shreveport conducted an in-depth interview with a Shreveport TV station reporter. Bruce’s interview will become part of a documentary to be aired just before the release of the movie “Twister.” During the interview, Bruce discussed storm chasing in general and the dangers inherent in storm chasing. He outlined the contributions storm chasers have made, both to their communities and to the National Weather Service’s warning and spotter training programs.

NWRs IN RADIO ROOM OR IN OPERATIONS AREA. The NWR AMPRO consoles throughout the Southern Region are being replaced with solid-state Digital consoles.

Last November, NWSO Houston/Galveston asked for and received permission to “test” using the Digitals in the operations area. In short order, NWSOs Tampa Bay and Tulsa also wanted to test the concept once their AMPROs were replaced with Digital units. Although circumstances varied from office to office, all are generally pleased with the transfer of the consoles to the operations area. Attached to this issue of Topics is a write-up about the new and improved way of doing NWR at NWSO Houston/Galveston. We thank Brian Kyle, Gregg Waller, and Chuck Roeseler for their comments.

Having the NWR consoles in the operations area is entirely voluntary. It is basically just a bridge between NWR today and the Console Replacement System (CRS) which will be in the operations area.

The Regional Director is quite interested in the reports and results from the four present sites with NWR in the operations area. He has no objection to other offices doing the same if they so choose. However, if the present NWR room is vacated, be advised there are no dollars to remodel it.

SPRINGTIME STORMS TURN DEADLY IN ARKANSAS AND MISSISSIPPI. Violent storms struck the Southern Region from the Fort Worth-Dallas/Oklahoma City area eastward to the Nashville area during the weekend of Friday evening, April 19, through Monday morning, April 22. In the storms’ wake, five people were killed and almost 70 injured. Watches and warnings were in effect, along with the timely issuances of statements and “Short-Term Forecasts.” Hail up to softball size fell at numerous locations.

In Cornersville, Tennessee (Marshall County), south of Nashville near the Alabama border, seven people, all in mobile homes, were injured around 7:30 a.m., Saturday, April 20 (Tornado Watch at 2:18 a.m., Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 7:02 a.m.).

An hour later, thunderstorm winds toppled a tree onto a mobile home near Carrollton, Mississippi (Carroll County), killing a teenage boy inside (Tornado Watch at 6:22 a.m. and Tornado Warning at 8:10 a.m.).

Sunday evening, things turned deadly in Arkansas. Severe and occasionally tornadic storms developed over eastern Oklahoma and moved northeast into the northwest corner of Arkansas. The hardest hit areas seemed to extend from the McAlester vicinity to northeast of Fort Smith.

At approximately 11:15 p.m., an F3 tornado (0.6 miles wide) touched down on the west side of downtown Fort Smith and traveled northeast for 6.5 miles. Two children were killed when their home was destroyed; around 60 people were injured, and 300 were reported homeless. A Tornado Watch had been in effect since 8:16 p.m. NWSO Tulsa issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning at 10:54 p.m. A Tornado Warning was issued at 11:08 p.m.

About an hour later (around 12:15 a.m., Monday, April 22), the same storm system struck near St. Paul, Arkansas, in Madison County, northeast of Fort Smith. A father and son were killed in a mobile home. A Tornado Watch, which was issued four hours earlier, was in effect. A Tornado Warning issued at 11:50 p.m. was valid until 12:30 a.m.

A Disaster Survey Team has been formed to review the services and warning operations associated with the Fort Smith tornado.

FIRST ALERT KUDOS FOR TULSA AND LITTLE ROCK. Friday, April 26, following the “Fort Smith” tornado event, Mr. Marvin McInnis, Jr., President of “First Alert Warning System” in Olathe, Kansas, contacted MSD. His company receives NWS products from NWWS and relays them to his company’s clients. Each month he provides the NWS with an “error log” on Southern Region products that had dissemination problems (bad UGC, etc.) that is forwarded to each NWSFO/NWSO for review and possible corrective action as needed.

Mr. McInnis wanted everyone to know that his company had reviewed all the products issued by NWSO Tulsa the evening of the Fort Smith tornado, and no dissemination errors or problems were noted. He considered that accomplishment quite noteworthy and commendable, considering how extremely busy the office was and how many warnings and statements they issued in the heat of battle. We agree.

Mr. McInnis further stated that NWSFO Little Rock had issued 193 warning products (TOR/SVR/FFW) during the months of February and March 1996 without a single error being noted. To his recollection, this constituted a record performance never before matched. Congratulations NWSFO Little Rock. And thank you, “First Alert Warning System,” for passing on these complimentary bits of information.

HYDROLOGIC SERVICES DIVISION

QPF PROGRESS. As of late April, ten offices are preparing QPFs at least once a day in the Southern Region. With a number of spin-up offices now issuing aviation products, concerted efforts are being focused toward QPF. Our latest figures show that by early July, at least 26 Southern Region offices will be regularly issuing QPFs.

Last week HSD distributed QPF training and reference materials to each office. As more energy is focused on QPF in the coming months, we hope these documents help enhance your ability to issue accurate Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts.

SHIMS UPGRADE. A SHIMS database software upgrade (version 4.02) will be sent to each field office in the Southern Region soon. HSD has sent the documentation to each office so service hydrologists and hydrologic focal points can get a head start on learning the “ins and outs” of this upgrade. A copy of Paradox 4.5 for DOS will also be sent to each office.

DOWN IN THE WEST TEXAS TOWN OF EL PASO. On the Hydrologic Service Area (HSA) transition front, NWSO El Paso will accept its HSA on Wednesday, May 15.

ALERT! ALERT! Ed May (Chief of Hydrologic Services) and Pat Sneeringer (HSD STAR) will travel to Oxnard, California, to represent Southern Region at the Annual ALERT Users Conference. ALERT (Automated Local Evaluation in Real-Time) data is collected from river and/or rain gauges in flood sensitive areas. The value of ALERT system data to the operational forecaster is that the data will reveal river levels or rainfall amounts in real time.

Many cities or counties in the Southern Region are acquiring these types of systems. The Southern Region is taking a serious look at making such data locally available to NWSO/NWSFOs as well as the RFCs. ALERT is a hot topic, so expect to read more about it, and maybe even consider becoming your office’s ALERT focal point.

SERFC HYDROLOGIC SUPPORT FOR PUERTO RICO. On another travel note, Ed May and SERFC HIC Dave Helms will travel to Puerto Rico to hold discussions on the further development and enhancement of the NWSFO San Juan hydrologic program and the support to be provided by SERFC Atlanta. A meeting with the governor of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands is also on the agenda.

INTERAGENCY COOPERATION. FEMA Southern Region Deputy Director Rick Mayson and several staff members, visited SERFC April 25 for orientation and to extend previous discussions regarding flood forecasting and the Hydromet System. The very cordial discussions resulted in a commitment by SERFC to take a more active role in FEMA planning activities during future flood events.

DOWNSTREAM. The annual coordination meeting between the NWS and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) will be held at the WGRFC in Fort Worth on May 29.

GULFPORT VISIT. Gil Barton (DAPM, NWSFO New Orleans), Dave Smith (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO New Orleans), and Dave Reed (HIC, LMRFC Slidell) visited with Wade Guice, Emergency Manager of Harrison County, Mississippi. Wade, widely known in the emergency management circles for his work during Hurricane Camille, gave them a tour of the ALERT-type data collection system installed in the county and showed them several gaging locations on the Biloxi River.

SCIENTIFIC SERVICES DIVISION

COMET OUTREACH PROGRAM NEWS. If they have not just done so, COMET will shortly distribute to universities a request for Cooperative and Partners Proposals (RFP). Partners proposals may be submitted to COMET at any time. These are for relatively small scale collaborative (with the NWS) projects that are usually funded for one year at a level of around $5,000. Cooperative projects are larger scale, multi-year efforts that are funded at around $25,000 per year. All Cooperative proposals must be received by COMET no later than November 1, 1996.

The point of this COMET program is to foster collaboration among NWS offices and universities. The latter submit the proposals, but the documentation is usually developed as a joint effort; and SSD will assist as necessary. The Regional Director must endorse both Partners and Cooperative proposals before they go to COMET for approval. As soon as it is available, we will provide SOOs and DOHs with a copy of COMET's RFP.

CHANGE IN X-118 STANDARDS. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has adopted a revised set of meteorologist educational (X-118) standards. Attached to the Topics this week are the new standards. This change has been many years in the making, and what is included in the attachment has not changed significantly from earlier versions of the proposed new standards which most have seen in one form or another. Note that the basic requirement for meteorology courses increases from 20 to 24 semester hours, which must now include physical meteorology and remote sensing courses. Nine additional hours selected from various other related courses are also required, along with calculus-based physics.

Although the change is now "official" with OPM, the NWS is given some leeway before actually implementing a requirement for the new standards. The new standards are expected to apply for NWS positions starting October 1 this year. Anyone currently in a meteorologist (GS/GM-1340) position, or anyone who has held such a position in the past, will not be affected by the change. After October 1, new hires, or anyone wishing to cross over to a meteorologist position, must meet the new standard.

DACFO REPORT. Nezette Rydell (NWSFO Austin/San Antonio), the Southern Region representative on the Director's Advisory Committee on Forecast Operations (DACFO), recently attended the annual meeting at NWS Headquarters. Nezette's summary of the meeting is attached to this week's Topics. The final DACFO report, which will address all of the issues committee members presented to NWSH, will be distributed to all offices at a future date.

TECHNICAL ATTACHMENTS. Also included with this issue of Topics are the following Technical Attachments:

"An Example of the Use of WSR-88D Clutter Suppression" by John Lipe and Loren Phillips, NWSFO Lubbock

"Using Isoplethed Total-Totals Indices to Predict Thunderstorm Development" by John Lewis, NWSFO Little Rock

SOO NEWS. Two seminars were conducted recently at NWSFO Little Rock. The first pertained to ASOS, METAR, and TAF. John Robinson discussed how forecasters should interpret and regard the ASOS observations. George Wilken (SOO) provided an overview of the METAR and TAF codes. To get ready for upcoming changes, forecasters, interns, and HMTs are already working on the METAR and TAF exercises and CD-ROM provided by the FAA and the METAR certification workbook from the NWS.

The second seminar on April 25, repeated the following day, featured OSF Director Jim Belville and John Ferree (OSF), who provided information on future directions for the WSR-88D program and a preview of Build 9.0 software that is due out next October. In addition to the local staff, NWS offices in Memphis, Shreveport, Jackson, and Springfield (Missouri) were represented, as was the Little Rock USAF base. Jim also presented a short talk on the OSF and WSR-88D to 26 members in attendance at the local AMS/NWA chapter meeting during his visit.

Charlie Liles (NWSFO Albuquerque) recently received letters from Alvin Miller (Chief, Climate Operations Branch) and J. O. Dickey (Space Geodetic Science Applications Group, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) expressing thanks for the good work performed by the Angular Momentum Project of the International Earth Rotation Service. Deirdre Kann (Albuquerque SOO) was extensively involved in the project. NASA's JPL credits the project's good work in helping Galileo have a successful arrival at Jupiter last year.

On April 18, Greg Story, from the HAS Unit in the West Gulf RFC in Fort Worth, presented a seminar at NWSO Shreveport on HAS Unit duties and responsibilities and the testing of the Brainmaker software. The Brainmaker software generates areal average QPFs and PoPs utilizing Neural Networks and artificial intelligence.

NEW VERSION OF PC-GRIDDS RELEASED. The Office of Meteorology has released the long awaited update of PC-GRIDDS. This version had been adapted from that developed for the World Area Forecast System (WAFS) of the International Civil Aviation Organization and the World Meteorological Organization. Included with the new version are an interactive menu for new users and a separate program to convert data from the GRIB to the PC-GRIDDS format. A major limitation of the new version is that it cannot directly read the current or archived forms of the PC-GRIDDS data. Data sets must first be opened with the current version of the software which adds some map information to the data that the new version expects to already be present. SSD plans to eventually make available PC-GRIDDS data in a format compatible with both the current and new versions of the software. The software anda very preliminary version of the program documentation can be obtained from the NCEP Anonymous FTP server or via modem from the Southern Region PC-GRIDDS server.

NEW DATA SETS ON SRH PC-GRIDDS SERVER. Recent additions to the SRH PC-GRIDDS server include gridded model output from the 0300, 0900 and 1500 UTC runs of the Meso Eta model, MOS data in the format required by the AVMAPS and MRMAPS programs (see Technical Attachment SR/SSD 95-12), the new version of the PC-GRIDDS software (see above) with a compatible beta test version of Don Baker's Command File Manager and PC-GRIDDS command files contributed by NWSFO Birmingham (see Tech Attachment SR/SSD 96-6) and Dr. James Moore of St. Louis University.

CONVERSION OF SAO REPORTS TO METAR. Activity is at a high level in preparation for the conversion of surface observations to the METAR code on July 1. Test METAR observations (AFOS category MTT), as well as operational METARs (AFOS category MTR) from Mexico, are now being routinely transmitted. Many tasks must be completed by both headquarters entities and field offices in order to assure a smooth transition. Here is a synopsis of ongoing and planned activities:

1.An end-to-end test of METAR is currently under way to test the path of the METAR observation stream from origin (the observation sites) to destination (NWS offices, FAA, etc.). Evaluation will be based on receipt reliability and timeliness of the METAR data as compared with the SAOs. Southern Region participants are NWSFO Austin/San Antonio, West Gulf River Forecast Center, and the Fort Worth Center Weather Service Unit.

The test also will validate that applications programs, as modified, operate properly in the METAR environment. Affected programs include the SAO Decoder, weather round-up program, aviation monitoring program, verification (AEV) program, and the TAF encoder program. Upon completion of the tests, the necessary updated software will be provided to all offices.

2.A related issue is the future structure of the master station directory on AFOS, STDIR.MS. This file is used by numerous applications programs to determine station coordinates, elevation, and other parameters for plotting data. Current observations have three character identifiers, whereas METAR observations will be identified by four characters. Since many international identifiers are changed (e.g., Mexico, Alaska, Caribbean), implementation will involve more that just adding a K to the current identifier. Regional focal points are working with TDL to generate new directories so as to have the least impact on operations. This will involve some work at the local level as well. Stay tuned.

3.Finally, METAR implementation will require addition of new AFOS product identifiers at all offices. The new IDs are AFOS category MTR and will replace all SAO identifiers after July 1. We will coordinate and verify this effort in conjunction with WSH. An applications program (KEYSADD) has been provided to offices to assist in this effort.

We encourage all offices to make as many preparations as possible for this major change, including the addition of the new identifiers and testing of programs; current versions of the SAO decoder (Version 12.00) will decode both SAO and METAR data. We encourage sites to begin decoding test data (category MTT) as soon as possible.

SYSTEMS OPERATIONS DIVISION

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION BRANCH

MicroSWIS UPDATE. An updated version of MicroSWIS will be distributed to NWSFOs. The new software will enable the system to schedule 96 images. The software will help the spin-up NWSOs relying on MicroSWIS to receive more products. Installation instructions and software are in the mail.

OBSERVATIONS AND FACILITIES BRANCH

FACILITIES STAFFING CHANGES. Due to the recent departures of both Larry Holland (Facilities Engineer) and Lonnie Catlett (Draftsman), Facilities is in the uncomfortable position of not having a draftsperson or a specified contact for inquiries regarding Safety and Environmental Compliance to support Southern Region Headquarters needs. This has prompted Facilities to make some changes in the organization to fully utilize our existing talents and resources located in the field.

On July 8, Don Allen (SFT, Lubbock) will be returning to the Southern Region Headquarters to assume the drafting responsibility, along with supplementing the field SFTs on an as needed basis. Those of you who have been around for awhile will remember Don as the draftsman for the Southern Region some years ago. I am sure Don will start right where he left off.

At the same time Don relocates to Fort Worth, Steve Davis (SFT who is currently located in Fort Worth) will be relocating to Lubbock to assume that SFT position. Steve has been with NWS for four years and has exemplary qualifications for the position. I am sure that when he arrives, Andy Anderson and Carl Hill will show Steve how things are done in West Texas.

As far as the Safety/Environmental programs and Larry’s other duties are concerned, these responsibilities will be divided between Terry Brisbin and Stanley Saenz. Both are highly qualified and motivated to do the job. I do not expect any radical changes in our philosophy or abilities to support these programs.

DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES

NWSFO DALLAS/FORT WORTH. WCM Jim Stefkovich recently gave a 45-minute presentation to their Adopt-a-School—Morningside Elementary School—on severe weather and safety by doing a couple of experiments. He also showed the film, "Awesome Power."

NWS OFFICES IN THE HOUSTON AREA SUPPORT METEOROLOGY AND SPACE SCIENCE MAGNET SCHOOL. Three NWS offices in the Houston, TX area—NWSO Houston/Galveston, the Spaceflight Meteorology Group (SMG) at Johnson Space Center, and the Center Weather Service Unit (CSWU)—have collaborated in a unique way to support the new Madison High School Magnet School for Meteorology and Space Science in Houston. Beginning in early 1994, staff members from all three offices have participated in organizational meetings, curriculum discussions, interviews for Magnet School Coordinator, and have provided NWS office tours to the Madison High School staff. NWS offices have also provided information and liaisons to meteorological resources. For example, based on a recommendation by Houston area NWS offices, the new Magnet School coordinator, Dr. Jay Spuck, attended the AMS Conference on Meteorological Education in Atlanta in January 1996.

On March 28, 1996, Madison High School hosted a meeting of the local Houston AMS Chapter. WCM Gene Hafele presented an abbreviated Spotter Training seminar. This meeting provided an outstanding opportunity for professional meteorologists in the Houston area to meet (formally and informally) with Madison High School's first Magnet Program class members.

The Houston area NWS offices will continue working with Madison High School to support development of the Magnet School program. Staff members most actively involved in supporting the Magnet School include: NWSO Houston—Bill Read, Gene Hafele, and Josh Lichter; SMG—Frank Brody, Cara Heist, and Mark Keehn; CWSU Houston—Vince Carrerras and Leslie Peterson.

NWSFO NEW ORLEANS/BATON ROUGE. Ken Graham (meteorologist intern) truly has a "heart to jump." Ken, who stands a mere two meters, lowered himself a full one meter to help the smaller elementary school children "Jump Rope For Heart." Ken participated as master of ceremony at the American Heart Association's "Jump Rope For Heart" activity at Chata-Ima Elementary School in Lacombe, Louisiana. Ken, like other fellow meteorologists at the NWSFO, continues to make his rounds throughout the NWSFO Parish and County Warning Areas, either giving weather talks or performing public service.

NWSFO JACKSON. On April 12, Donell Woods (MIC, Vicksburg WSO/COE) staffed a booth at the Vicksburg Warren Country Career Day. The event was held at the District Office of the Army Corps of Engineers. Over 250 students from three local high schools attended the event. Donell was asked several questions ranging from "Are you on TV" to "How much money do you make?" There is still hope; other questions ranged from "How do you become a meteorologist” to "What schools in the local area offer degrees in meteorology?” One student wanted to become a spotter/observer as soon as possible! Good job!

NWSO AMARILLO. These past two months NWSO Amarillo has made up for its lack of weather by maximizing its outreach opportunities including the following:

•Fifteen spotter training sessions for more than 500 spotters

•Seven civic club talks to 150 community leaders

•Five school outings to about 300 youngsters

•Twelve office tours, mostly schools, to about 450 panhandle residents

Other activities include judging a science fair, participating in a computer workshop, conducting a media severe weather workshop, and staffing a mall booth affording another direct interaction with about 500 people and visual contact with 4,000 to 5,000 more. They also provided 15 TV interviews covering the drought, severe weather, and the budget status.

Accomplishing all these contacts took considerable effort on the part of the External Team and all the Amarillo staff. They have done a great job representing the NWS and the local office in the Panhandle region.

NWSO SHREVEPORT. SOO Ken Falk, Hydrologist Craig Ross, and DAPM Marion Kuykendall gave a tour to 54 students from Summer Hill Elementary School. Topics covered were the MAR, upper air, and NWR.

MIC Lee Harrison, DAPM Marion Kuykendall, ESA Michael Waddell, and meteorologist intern Bill Parker participated in a Career Day at Southern University. Southern is a branch of Historical Black Colleges.

NWSO MELBOURNE. MIC Bart Hagemeyer has been working with the Co-op Office at Florida Institute of Technology to set up a Student Volunteer Program. It should be in place for the fall 1996 semester. Dennis Decker is involved with AMS's Project Atmosphere and will be teaching the teachers.

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