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

November 1, 1996

SOUTHERN TOPICS


REGIONAL DIRECTOR

REGIONAL DIRECTOR'S CONFERENCE.During the week of October 21 I attended the Regional Director's Conference in Washington. A few of the conference highlights, or low lights,follow:

Budget. Much uncertainty continues about the best way to handle NWS budget shortages in the current fiscal year. The uncertainty driver for the most part is the FY 98 budget. NWS has requested increases to our FY 98 budget to correct budgetary errors which have occurred in the past. If these arguments are accepted, our approach to the FY 97 problems will involve doing things that save us dollars primarily in this fiscal year; if the argument is not accepted, then we do things this year that will also produce savings in FY 98 and beyond. The actions in each of the conditional outcomes are quite different. We are hopeful the uncertainty will be cleared by the end of November and the field can be informed on steps we must take to live within this year's funding.

Ratings. NWS will be trying to make the transition to a two-level rating system on April 1, 1997. Much work needs to be done to make this possible, but there is great desire to make it happen. Much more information on the new rating system will be disclosed over the next several months. This change in ratings procedures will also result in a significantly different approach to the awards program.

End State Staffing. Considerable activity has taken place lately to resolve the end state staffing numbers for each of our field forecast offices and for the regional offices. For the forecast offices, staffing criteria have been established, which, when applied, identifies the number of forecasters allowed at each of our forecast offices. The staffing will be tight and will require adjustment to the way many offices operate today. Teamwork will be essential. Although the staffing numbers are not yet final, they are close enough to represent targets to which we will begin planning. Also disclosed was a recommended procedure for transition of the NWS current staffing deployment to where we want it to be at the end of the decade. It is basically a plan that allows the drawdown of stations which are overstaffed relative to the end state numbers, and allows for the build-up of spin-up sites to their end state requirements. Some people will be required to move to different locations to continue their careers.

AWIPS. It looks as if the AWIPS production decision will need to be delayed until early next year. This is taking place for a variety of reasons, but hopefully will delay the deployment of this required technology only for a few months. Many AWIPS-related decisions will be made over the next three to four months. The decision to integrate WFO-Advanced software into the AWIPS program will be a big advantage to our field operations. The integration will be done over approximately the next 18 months.

End-to-End Process. An active dialogue took place over the end-to-end forecast process. The direct dependency on centralized model guidance processes vs. what can be added through model interpretive guidance to field forecasters from NCEP units was a hot topic. I'm sure much more conversation will take place on this subject before we agree on the process.

Freeze. A complete freeze on the filling of all field positions will continue in place. Every attempt is being made to provide positions for staff members who may need to be relocated out of national and regional headquarters. These NWS management units will be drawn down in size over the next several years. One option made available to qualified personnel will be placement in vacant field positions.

ASOS Maintenance. Joe Friday has asked for a complete briefing on staffing vs. requirements in the field maintenance program. Problems seem to be greatest in the ASOS maintenance area; however, the entire maintenance staffing has problem areas which need attention. One obvious conclusion was that more people is not the answer.

I realize much of what has been presented is general. During the next several months, sufficient information should become available to move on to hard decisions.

SERVICE ENHANCEMENT PROJECT (SEP). On Thursday, October 30, I traveled to NWSFO Little Rock to recognize several members of the office staff as the first winners of the Southern Region's SEP program. It was a most delightful day. The award ceremony was covered by two television stations. The community was represented by the mayor and the emergency management organization. The state director of the Office of Emergency Services was a participant in the ceremony. Everyone was very proud of the NWSFO Little Rock staff. You will remember, the winner of this year's award was selected by a representative group of our customers, which makes it that much more valuable. The recognition was for services provided during a deadly tornado outbreak in northern Arkansas on April 14, 1996. Staff members receiving the award were John Lewis, Chuck Rickard, John Robinson, Jeff Borzilleri, and David Matson.

RADAR MILESTONE: NEXRAD NETWORK COMPLETED. With the commissioning of the WSR-88D at Key West, the Southern Region has completed the installation of its original NEXRAD radars. All Southern Region WSR-88Ds have been commissioned on time and on schedule--a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the field offices. Only the San Juan FAA WSR-88D and two recent add-ons (West Arkansas and North Alabama) remain to be installed and commissioned. The first WSR-88D in the national network was commissioned in Norman, Oklahoma, on February 28, 1994. Key West is number 30 in the Southern Region and the 113th NEXRAD to be commissioned in the country. Congratulations to everyone who played a role in reaching this significant milestone.

AWIPS UPDATE

THE LATEST NEWS. In the last Southern Topics, we mentioned that the decision to move forward with the national deployment of AWIPS had been postponed, and this is still true. At this point we are still not quite certain of the impact of this decision. Fortunately, a long delay is not anticipated. If a decision can be made in January 1997, national deployment can start in early summer 1998. We'll keep you posted on the progress.

SOFTWARE UPDATES. Although Southern Region has only one office with AWIPS (NWSO Tulsa), we will keep you informed of the various activities surrounding the program. For instance, Release 1.1 was distributed to the AWIPS sites last week. This build corrects some 60 Discrepancy Reports, or problems detected by the field offices using the systems, and verifies the compatibility of the AWIPS with Build 9 of the WSR-88D. A few days later, corrections and enhancements to the hydro applications were to be sent to the AWIPS sites.

SITE SURVEYS. Although the national deployment has been put on a temporary hold, there will still be a lot of activity for AWIPS. Several Southern Region sites (NWSFO/RFC Fort Worth, NWSFO/RFC New Orleans, SRH, and NWSFO Norman) will be involved in site surveys. A team will be sent from Washington, including a PRC, a GTE, an NWSH representative, and someone from SRH. This team will converge on the offices to go over the requirements necessary to prepare the office for AWIPS.

AWIPS FROM A DIFFERENT POINT OF VIEW. The first Southern Region AWIPS has been installed at NWSO Tulsa. Usually, such an event is either a point of euphoria or consternation, depending on your point of view. I (Bruce Marshak) have been with the NWS long enough to remember how it was when AFOS (yes, that old blue box) was installed. Many saw it as the answer to all our needs, both operationally and in its maintenance philosophy. AFOS was advertised as (magically?) taking care of everything. For those who don't remember or never had to do it, even with the initial AFOS, just to update the forecast required cutting another paper tape with either an Olivetti tape cutting machine or on a teletype machine, and fighting for control of the teletype circuit and hoping that all the required coding was correct! There are still items that were promised when AFOS was installed that it will not do (message composition on a GDM screen comes to mind). Luckily, times have changed, and the next time you have to update a forecast or issue a warning, realize it is much easier to accomplish the tasks now. From the maintenance viewpoint, AFOS was the first system ETs had to troubleshoot to the board level, or the chassis level, instead of the individual component.

AWIPS is a horse of a different color. Eventually, it is also expected to do many magical things to make both the operational staff and systems support (electronics) staff's lives easier. Initially, however, it is just a display system when it is brought into your office with Build 1 software. So what's the big deal? Well, it is a big deal when you can display current WSR-88D and near real-time satellite data at every workstation in the office, and update loops of these data automatically. What I saw when the system was installed in Tulsa was the operational and maintenance staff being interested in how the system operates--people working together to integrate a powerful new tool into the office.

From a systems perspective, we now see that we have to first determine which system--AWIPS, AFOS, or WSR-88D--is malfunctioning, then take appropriate steps to resolve the difficulty. We have an additional resource in the Network Control Facility (NCF) to assist us in managing and maintaining the AWIPS network. Much of the AWIPS system is designed with redundant hardware to assist us in keeping the system on-line. Our systems personnel, whether their title is Electronics Systems Analyst or Electronics Technician, should be capable of keeping this system on-line with the training they have, supplemented with additional training that will be provided in the future.

From the systems side of the organization, I see a new tool that can be beneficial to the operations side of the house from Day 1. What I would like to convey to the ultimate users--the field offices--is that you should consider this new tool as an asset to your organization and plan the siting of AWIPS equipment in your office accordingly. In Tulsa they have basically equipped each work position with an AFOS AG, a PC next to it, and placed the AWIPS workstation on the other side of the PC, making a work area with several tools within a small area and within glancing range. I see this as an ergonomic situation--not having to turn around or walk to another area to do your job. If you see and utilize AWIPS every time you perform your job, you will become more comfortable and reliant on it as time progresses. As the intended functionality of AWIPS increases, we can migrate to that functionality naturally and remove other less useful tools. So far, this layout seems to be working very successfully at NWSO Tulsa. As we install more systems, we will learn more and pass this information along to you (as if you won't find out about it before we do).

As we all move forward, consider the above information when planning how to implement AWIPS in your office. You will be glad you did.

TRANSITION MANAGEMENT UNIT

UPCOMING SOUTHERN REGION MAR EVENTS.

November 15 - Facility Dedication at NWSO Brownsville

MORE PROPOSED CERTIFICATIONS PUBLISHED IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER. Proposed automation certifications for WSOs Waco, Port Arthur, Columbus, Macon, and Bristol have been published in the Federal Register. Proposed combined automation and consolidation certifications for WSOs Austin and Athens have also been published. Sixty-day public comment periods on all these proposed certifications are currently in progress. The Modernization Transition Committee (MTC) will review the proposed certifications at their December meeting. The MTC has endorsed 20 Southern Region consolidation certifications, but these are the first automation certifications to be presented to the MTC.

METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES DIVISION

SMG TRAINS NEW ASTRONAUT CLASS. SMG recently performed a series of weather hazards training seminars for the new astronauts at Johnson Space Center. Lead Forecaster Wayne Baggett and Tim Oram, a Techniques Development Unit meteorologist, briefed a class of 20 new astronaut candidate pilots, and later briefed a class of 25 astronaut "mission specialists" at the NASA T-38 Flight Training Facility at Ellington Field in Houston.

The briefings focused mainly on thunderstorm hazards affecting T-38 flight operations in the thunderstorm-prone environment stretching from Houston to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and from Houston to El Paso. This weather training was part of the overall T-38 Ground School that every new astronaut candidate pilot must complete as part of their NASA training. The material was well received by the class and by the other senior astronauts in attendance.

ZONE FORECAST CHANGES NOVEMBER 5. At 0900 UTC on November 5, the routine issuance of Zone Forecasts (ZFP) changed from four to two per day, and is now event-driven, with updates as needed. Should frequent updates be needed, offices may store additional versions of ZFPs in AFOS to have access to all forecasts. Forecast Discussions (SFDs/AFDs) will continue with four per day. NWSO Amarillo will begin a six-month experiment during which the Extended Forecast will be added to the Zone Forecast, and the Area Forecast Product will be discontinued.

EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM. The new Emergency Alert System (EAS) is still scheduled to go into effect January 1, 1997. The latest policy guidelines are expected soon from NWSH. It is expected that the products/events and counties that now receive the 1050 Hz NWR alarm will also have the Specific Area Message Encoder (SAME) alarm. Only approved NWR SAME codes shall be used. Test procedures will be outlined. Full details will be sent to all offices upon receipt.

SAME PRINTERS. All offices that have the new Digital NWR consoles should have, or soon will have, a printer for the SAME system. Printed SAME messages will help verify that SAME is working properly prior to the new EAS beginning in January.

CRH VISITORS. Several people from CRH MSD/SOD and several RMSs from the Central Region visited with T.L. Farrow and INH (SAME encoder manufacturer in Fort Worth) in late October. The Central Region is also replacing a number of AMPROs with solid state consoles. They wanted training and set-up procedures for the NWR SAME and ROAMs installation team being established in the Central Region. Larry Krudwig (CRH SOD) complimented T.L., stating that T.L.'s accomplishments have proven very successful at getting SAME up and running with the non-AMPRO systems.

EL PASO FLOOD EVENT PRAISED. MIC Max Blood received the following complimentary letter from the El Paso Texas Department of Transportation office following the September 8 flood event:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your fine staff at the National Weather Service for their support during our last rainfall.

I was given a weather warning from Roger Mead and Val MacBlain just prior to the storm. Their efforts enabled me to mobilize my maintenance forces in a much more expedient manner, thereby enabling them to address any street flooding and other problems which are normally associated with this type of storm.

Because of this, I firmly believe that we saved lives and reduced the amount of possible street damages.

Again, I commend you and your staff and I am certain that our great working relationship will continue to grow.

CALL FOR STAR APPLICANTS. We are accepting applications for the next STAR employee for January through March. Positions are available in Scientific Services and Meteorological Services Divisions. Please see the "Call for Applicants" memo, which was sent to all offices, dated November 5, for details, or check the SRH home page under Special Projects.

HYDROLOGIC SERVICES DIVISION

HYDRO APPLICATIONS TRAINING FOR AWIPS SITES. With the deployment of AWIPS to nine NWSFOs late this summer, the introduction of the WHFS (WFO Hydrologic Forecast System) software developed by the Hydrologic Research Lab (HRL) of the Office of Hydrology (OH) continues. Each of the offices that received AWIPS this summer was able to send two persons to a WHFS workshop at NWSTC prior to delivery of their system. In addition, OH arranged for the formation of "Tiger Teams" which visited each of the AWIPS-receiving offices shortly after AWIPS was installed. The "Tiger Teams" provided hands-on one-on-one training to NWSFO/NWSO staff. There were three "Tiger Teams," each consisting of two trainers. From Southern Region, Dave Schwertz (Service Hydrologist, NWSO Houston) participated on the team that provided training at NWSOs Tulsa and Wichita. Ed May (Chief, Hydrologic Services Division) participated on a team that provided training at NWSFO Salt Lake City and NWSO Dodge City.

SHIMS VERSION 4.10 DUE TO BE RELEASED BY END OF YEAR. Ed May participated in a working group that met at NWSH in late September to formulate an enhanced set of user documentation for SHIMS. The working group first addressed changes needed to SHIMS to make the information more compatible with the Hydrobase application in AWIPS. The enhanced user documentation was then discussed in detail, and assignments made to participants to prepare portions of the documentation. A target date of November 1 was set for drafts of the documentation to be provided to OH and the modifications to SHIMS to be made. OH will then finalize the document and distribute it to all NWSFO/NWSO/RFCs by the end of the year. The new version of SHIMS will be issued at about that same time.

All offices must strive to be running SHIMS 4.02 prior to the release of SHIMS 4.10. A preliminary list of the changes that will be incorporated into SHIMS 4.10 was recently forwarded to all Southern Region HSAs and RFCs.

Other participants of the working group included Mike Callahan and Al Shipe (Service Hydrologists at NWSFOs Louisville and Indianapolis respectively) and Mark Glaudemans of WHFS development team at HRL.

SAAS CONFERENCE. The 9th Annual Southwest Association of ALERT Systems Conference is being held this week in Baton Rouge. Regional Director Harry Hassel, Glenn Austin (HSD), and Dave Schwertz (NWSO Houston) are scheduled to make presentations at the conference. Also attending from Southern Region are Randy Reiman and Dave Reed (LMRFC Slidell), Pat Sneeringer (WGRFC Fort Worth), and Dave Smith (NWSFO New Orleans).

HYDROMET BRIEFING AVAILABLE ONLINE. A self-directed, hydromet briefing is now available on the SR HSD homepage. The briefing consists of a series of hypertext links that point to pertinent hydrometeorological information available at various sites on the Internet's World Wide Web. Stepping through the links allows the user to become better aware of the present and forecast hydrometeorological conditions across the U.S. and the Southern Region. Examples of the information accessed include radar-based precipitation estimates, national flood summaries from the Hydrologic Information Center, current flood watches and warnings, and quantitative precipitation forecasts. To find the briefing page, go to the HSD homepage under the NWS Southern Region homepage, then select "Self Weather Brief." Please note that this is a preliminary product. While we intend to keep the listings short and precise, we are open for suggestions to improve the overall quality of the links we are using.

HYDROLOGIC UPDATE

Drought. Recent information from the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) suggests moderate drought conditions persist over just a few areas of the Southern Region. Moderate drought exists over northwest New Mexico, southwest and portions of south central Texas, and the interior part of southern Florida. As a result of a recent wet weather pattern, extremely moist conditions are apparent over the middle and lower Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, northwest Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Panhandle. The Lower Mississippi River Valley and the state of Alabama are experiencing unusually moist PDSI conditions, with the remainder of Southern Region near normal.

Peachtree City Precipitation. Gary Butler (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Atlanta) reports that the Atlanta HSA received an average of 4.82 inches of rain in September. This equates to about 25 per cent above normal for the month. Gary reveals that the heaviest rains fell when the interaction of a cold front and a passing upper air disturbance produced general 1-to 2-inch rains over much of northern Georgia during the 24-hour period ending at 8 a.m. September 17 (during the Advanced Techniques in Heavy Precipitation Forecasting and QPF workshop being held at the collocated SERFC/NWSFO Peachtree City!).

SIGNIFICANT HYDROLOGIC EVENTS

Texas Hill Country Downpours Cause Serious Flooding. Excessive rain fell over the Texas hill country south of San Angelo and north of San Antonio October 27-29. At least 6-12 inches fell over the area that includes the headwaters for the Nueces and Llano Rivers, with major flooding. Flash flooding occurred along the upstream reaches, while the flood wave took more than 24 hours to reach the lower portions of the basins. Many roads and bridges became impassible or were washed out. One death was reported after a pickup truck was swept off a low-water crossing. Helicopters and tractors were used to evacuate people from at least 20 homes near the Nueces River in Crystal City.

Historic Flooding in Arkansas. Steve Bays (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Little Rock) forwarded this information:

During the last week of September slow moving storms dumped heavy rains over the north central counties of Arkansas. Reports in excess of three inches were common. Automated rain gages in the Buffalo River Basin reported between 5 and 10 inches in a 48-hour period. The average monthly flow for September for the Buffalo River at St. Joe for the period 1940-1995 has been 149 cfs. Maximum average monthly flow for that period of record was 1158 cfs in 1950. The average monthly flow for September 1996 was approximately 2,050 cfs.

Steve was consulted with regard to the partial evacuation of a campground on September 27. The main entrance of the campground was flooded by Sylamore Creek with a crest from the White River yet to come. After the event, officials reported that a large portion of the campground did flood during the overnight hours. No damage was reported, and all but one of the campers had been moved to higher ground. Steve reports, "The hard-headed holdout was convinced to move when the river began to rise up to the tires of his camper."

Flooding in the Golden Triangle. In the Lake Charles HSA, Ray Sondag reports:

On the 27th of September, parts of Southeast Texas received 10+ inches of rain. This caused flash flooding across Tyler, Jefferson, Orange and Hardin counties. The heavy rainfall across Tyler County caused ten earthen dams to break, washing out at least two bridges and closing several roads.

No deaths or injuries were reported with this flood event.

More Texas Floods. On September 19, tropical moisture and upper air disturbances resulted in torrential rains over parts of deep South Texas. In western parts of the NWSO Brownsville HSA, Doppler estimates of 10 inches were verified by spotters in eastern Zapata, western Starr, and southwest Jim Hogg counties. Brief closures of rural roads resulted from the rains. The rains were beneficial over the Falcon Reservoir watershed. The heavy rains, combined with less irrigation demand due to the cloudy and cool weather, resulted in a rise in the lake level of over 7 feet. The Falcon Reservoir level rose from 254.41 feet on September 1 to 261.66 feet on September 30.

Fickle Flooding. Eldon Beard (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Norman) described an interesting flood phenomenon he noticed occurring across his HSA in September. Eldon writes,

In central and northern Oklahoma, rainfall patterns oriented from southwest to northeast bisected rivers at diverse segments, producing localized floods which attenuated without reaching the next downstream forecast points. An extreme example of this effect was seen on the Washita River which reached eight feet above flood stage at Clinton, Oklahoma, on the 15th and crested at 5 feet below flood stage near Carnegie on the 20th.

NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS

QPF Training in Miami. Hydrologic Focal Point Jere Gallup (NWSFO Miami) revealed an office plan to train forecasters and HMT staff for their upcoming QPF implementation. A seminar for all staff members was scheduled for the middle of October with invited guests from the South Florida Water Management District expected to attend.

HSA Training at NWSO El Paso. Greg Story (HAS Forecaster, WGRFC Fort Worth) and Ed Polasko (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Albuquerque) provided training on HSA operations to the staff at El Paso on October 30. Nearly all the forecast and HMT staff at El Paso was able to attend the training.

Busy Bob. Service Hydrologist Bob Carle (NWSO Tallahassee) had a busy September. Early in the month, he helped install two automated river gages and accompanied the WCM on a spotter training seminar in southeast Alabama. He then attended the Peachtree City QPF and heavy precipitation workshop. Bob also worked with members of the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) in testing used Handar data loggers. Between them, Bob and the SRWMD managed to repair and install four of these units along the Suwannee River for real time data collection. Then Bob attended a two-day training session for the ALERT System at the Emergency Management office in Geneva, Alabama. This meeting was attended by representatives from the Corps of Engineers, the Choctawhatchee/Pea Rivers Watershed Management Authority, local police and city maintenance workers, among others. The training sessions were covered by local media.

Movin' in Memphis. NWSFO Memphis Service Hydrologist Buzz Merchlewitz spent much of September on the road. He traveled to Etta, Mississippi, to discuss flooding problems with a farmer familiar with the problem. A trip to Lexington, Tennessee, was made to help the DAPM select a new site for a co-op station. WCM John White introduced Buzz to WSEO duties on a trip to the Jonesboro, Arkansas, AFSS. A trip to the Swan Lake, Mississippi, river gage and co-op site was taken to assist in the maintenance of the equipment and to obtain Lat/Lon readings for several other cooperative sites in the area.

Jaunts in Jackson. Also on the road in September was Tommy Thompson (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Jackson) who, accompanied by SOO Rusty Pfost, visited eight sites for assessment as possible river forecast points. Tommy also completed and disseminated E-19 and E-19a data for two sites.

Customer Service in Southern Louisiana. NWSFO New Orleans Service Hydrologist Dave Smith accompanied Lake Charles hydro focal point Ray Sondag on a trip to the Vermillion River Basin where the two determined flood levels, ran levels for bank full stages, and met with USGS and Corps of Engineers personnel. They also met with Eloi Broussard, the manager of the Acadiana Shell Company, a distributer of shell and gravel, located in the flood plain near the Broussard Bridge gaging site.

Backing Up Nashville. Michael Murphy (Service Hydrologist, NWSO Nashville) prepared a mini version of NWSO Nashville's "River Manual" for NWSO Morristown and NWSFO Memphis. These two offices provide primary and secondary (respectively) back-up for Nashville's HSA. The manual includes a map of the Nashville HSA with the location of all river forecast points, a map of rain gages in the HSA, a list of AFOS products for data collection, river forecasts, and routine river products, an E-19a for each river forecast point, and the staff gage portion of the E-19 for each river forecast point. In preparing the back-up manual, Mike referenced ROML S-19-96, Emergency Back-up Plans for Future WFOs. Great work, Mike. We hope it never has to be used, but are comfortable knowing it is there "just in case."

Melbourne News. Peggy Glitto (hydro focal point, NWSO Melbourne) and the NWSO Melbourne WCM Dennis Decker have also been spending time arranging for the proper back-up of the Melbourne HSA. Additionally, Peggy has been working with the SOO, WCM, and the SERFC to gear the office up for the implementation of twice daily QPF.

Hustling in Houston. Dave Schwertz (Service Hydrologist, NWSO Houston) conducted Tiger Team training in Tulsa during the middle of September and Wichita in October. Additionally, Dave met with Fort Bend County, Texas, officials to set up seven rain gages in a developing network designed to cover the Brazos and San Bernard watersheds. Dave also began receiving regular river gage readings from the staff of the Austin County Judge, Commissioner for Precinct 4, after showing the Judge and his staff how to read the wire weight gage at FM1458.

Hydro Training in Alabama. Roger McNeil (Service Hydrologist, NWSFO Birmingham) coordinated with the SOO and DAPM to create a series of hydrology training shifts that will be assigned to interns and HMTs during the next few months. The interns and HMTs will work three to four consecutive hydro shifts with Roger, allowing them to experience the daily hydrologic operations and giving them insight and "repetitions" in the hydro functions of the office. Roger says, "We feel that working several shifts together, instead of just occasionally, performing the daily hydrologic routines will reinforce the procedures in these individuals." Sounds great to us, Roger!

NEWS FROM OUR RIVER FORECAST CENTERS

Mexican Visit. On October 11, six representatives of Mexico's water resources agencies visited the Lower Mississippi RFC and NWSFO New Orleans. Representatives from Mexico's National Water Commission, University of Mexico Institute of Water Technology, and Federal Hydroelectric Commission spent a week in the U.S. studying river forecast activities in anticipation of the installation of NWSRFS Version 5.0 in Mexico. In addition to receiving a detailed briefing of LMRFC operations and a tour of NWSFO New Orleans, the group also visited the NWSH Office of Meteorology and the North Central RFC in Chanhassen, Minnesota.

WGRFC HAS Visit to the SPC. Tony Hall (HAS forecaster, RFC Fort Worth) spent October 28-29 at the Storm Prediction Center at Norman. The primary purpose of the visit was to provide a briefing on the WGRFC experimental use of the Brainmaker software to produce QPF. Tony presented a seminar to 13 members of the SPC staff and had further discussions with several of the staff. Tony was also given a tour of the facility and was briefed on projects ongoing at SPC by host Gary Grice.

SCIENTIFIC SERVICES DIVISION

SOO NEWS. Steve Hunter (SOO, NWSO Morristown) is the author of a paper titled WSR-88D Radar Rainfall Estimation: Capabilities, Limitations and Potential Improvements, which will appear in the next (June 1996) issue of the NWA Digest. Here is an abstract:

The WSR-88D Precipitation Processing Subsystem (PPS) brings a dramatic advancement to operational flood forecasting, compared to earlier radars and rain gauge networks. Nevertheless, the system suffers from significant limitations inherent to the use of radar to estimate precipitation. Much of the problem has been ascribed to the complex nonlinear relationship between radar reflectivity and rainfall rate. Many different Z/R relationships have resulted from various experiments, and WSR-88D software allows a change to the Z-R relationship for differing precipitation situations. An appropriate Z/R relationship is not the dominant issue in radar precipitation estimation; however, there are many other sources of estimation error. These errors are briefly explored as they relate to the WSR-88D.

It appears that overshooting of precipitation by the radar beam often produces the largest errors, usually causing underestimation, and especially at longer ranges. Overshooting is more pronounced in the cool season. Calibration errors can also contribute large errors. Potential remedies for the major errors are reviewed and evaluated for their applicability to the WSR-88D. Recommendations for implementation or further study are made based on this applicability.

Mike Koziara (NWSFO New Orleans Area SOO) conducted twin seminars on southeast Louisiana/south Mississippi severe weather at NWSFO Jackson in mid-October. Mike discussed a severe bow echo case from December, 1995, that produced widespread wind damage and two tornadoes across southeast Louisiana, as well as a severe weather case from February 1996, with three tornadoes in Mississippi. He described the synoptic environments using PC-GRIDDS an then showed a number of related WSR-88D products. Also, Peter Wolf (FIC, Jackson, recently at NWSO Tulsa) gave a short talk on VIL density and applications at Tulsa. Pete showed how VIL density can lead to better warning decisions than just using the "VIL of the day." He also showed how fast-moving storms can lead to bad VIL estimates and how Build 9.0 will help in this area with its cell-based VIL algorithm.

Over 20 individuals attended the seminars, including staff from NWSO Shreveport and NWSFO Memphis, and Drs. Paul Croft and Pat Fitzpatrick from Jackson State University's meteorology program.

Mark Jackson (SOO, NWSO Brownsville) recently presented a seminar at NWSFO Lubbock on his work with the RAMS model in South Texas. The seminar was well attended with over 27 participants, including three professors and several grad students. NWSO Midland and Reese AFB (Lubbock) were also represented. Mark presented a brief summary of the RAMS model and his collaboration with NOAA's Forecast Systems Lab in Boulder to run the mesoscale model on the SAC. He then presented some sea breeze cases showing how the model performed. The sea breeze is not of paramount concern on the plains of West Texas, but Mark's presentation was mainly intended to generated discussion from the audience with an eye toward running the model locally for dryline studies. Dr. Tim Doggett, a COMET post-doc working at NWSFO Lubbock, will be heavily involved with this, along with Texas Tech and FSL.

KUDOS FOR KRISH. Prof. T.N. Krishnamurti at Florida State University was honored this week in a special ceremony at FSU. "Krish," as he is known to colleagues and students, received the WMO's 41st International Meteorological Organization Prize. Among those participating in the ceremony were Dr. Friday from the NWS and G.O.P. Obasi, Secretary-General of the UN World Meteorological Organization. The award recognizes the outstanding contributions Krish has made over many years to understanding the tropical atmosphere and numerical modeling. Since its inception several years ago, Krish has also been director of the NWS/FSU Cooperative Institute for Tropical Meteorology. Many of his former students are scattered far and wide in the NWS.

HEAT WAVE. The subject is probably not on anyone's mind at this time of year, but we wanted to call attention to an excellent summary of the severe heat wave that last summer affected much of the U.S. and resulted in hundreds of heat-related deaths. The summary is in the latest (September) issue of the Bulletin of the AMS, titled "Some Meteorological, Climatological, and Microclimatological Considerations of the Severe U.S. Heat Wave of Mid-July 1995," by Robert Livezey and Richard Tinker at NCEP's Climate Prediction Center. Most of the Southern Region, except for the eastern third, was largely spared; but the summary serves to remind us that overall, heat is the largest contributor to weather-related deaths. A copy of the paper might be filed away for reading prior to the next warm season. If you do not have access to the BAMS, SSD can supply a copy.

COMET SUPPORT UPDATE. Lara Ferraro, who has been the primary support person at COMET for the Professional Development Workstations (PDWs), has left COMET. The job she did so well will now be shared by several COMET staff members. To maximize their ability to respond, COMET has asked that offices adopt the following procedures:

  1. PDW focal points should first search the COMET home page for troubleshooting tips and other technical information. From the COMET home page (http://www.comet.ucar.edu/), click "CBL Modules" and then "Troubleshooting and Tips."

  2. Use the e-mail address support@comet.ucar.edu to file support requests. This is read by several COMET staff, and the responsibility for answering questions will rotate among the staff.

  3. COMET posts tips, technical notes, and other useful information on a community E-mail list, pdwinfo@comet.ucar.edu. If PDW focal points or other interested users have not received E-mail from this list, they may subscribe by sending an E-mail to majordomo@comet.ucar.edu which contains the single line "subscribe pdwinfo" in the message body.

On a related subject, for help in replacing the Jakarta card in the new PDWs (the cards should be "in the mail"), copies of the technical notes on installation and initialization are located on COMET's home page. Please follow those directions carefully before requesting assistance.

WSR-88D ALGORITHM RESEARCH SURVEY. We have included as a technical attachment this week a survey from NCAR seeking input on the subject of on-going radar algorithm research. The survey is self-explanatory. NCAR is asking for short descriptions of recent work which may have been done to enhance current WSR-88D algorithms, or address future needs of operational users and researchers. As appropriate, offices should respond to NCAR, or--at those offices where collaboration may be under way with researchers who are involved in such studies--please pass this information, and the survey, along to them.

MARINE OLYMPICS. Also included as a technical attachment to these Topics is a report by Scott Spratt, NWSO Melbourne, who worked as a forecaster at the Olympic Marine Weather Forecast Office in Savannah during the Centennial Olympic Games last summer.

GETTING READY FOR WINTER. Forecasters Barbara Shea, Greg Meffert, and Newton Skiles recently provided the staff at NWSFO Little Rock with a seminar on winter weather forecasting. Barbara based her discussion of forecasting clouds and fog during the winter season on her Tech Memo (NWS SR-180) on the subject. Greg's part of the seminar dealt with analysis of upper air data for winter precipitation. He used both NWS and USAF reference materials for his talk, which started with a brief exercise involving the analysis of Skew-T diagrams to determine precipitation type. At the end of the seminar, Greg again asked participants to look at the data with the information he had presented, and some different conclusions were reached as to what type of precipitation to expect.

Newton concluded the seminar by discussing the quality and usefulness of TAFs, which have been prepared at the NWSFO since last July. He examined time periods for certain qualifiers and some rules of thumb to use in the TAF for these qualifiers. In particular, he looked at the use of TEMPO and PROB groups. Participants in the seminar included 11 members of the forecast staff, two USAF forecasters, and one Air Guard forecaster.

SEVERE WEATHER REFERENCE. The Mesoscale Applications Group at the National Severe Storms Laboratory has announced the NSSL Bibliographic Database (NBD) at http://www.nssl.uoknor.edu/projects/nbd. The NBD helps weather forecasters and researchers locate references on hazardous weather quickly and easily. Currently, there are over 900 references related to hazardous winter weather in the NBD. References on tornados, lightning, and meteorological uses of satellite data will be added in the near future. Stop by and try it out.

PC APPLICATIONS PROGRAM UPDATES. We continue to add recently updated PC applications programs on the SRH server (bill). The files are located in the /ext1/download directory and are either -.ZIP files or self-extracting -.EXE files. Users may access the files either by FTP or by logging in as a PC-GRIDDS user and selecting menu item 15 (PC Applications).

PC-NOW Update. The latest program available for downloading is Version 2 of PC-NOW; many offices have this program but are using older versions. We have placed two options on the menu for PC-NOW--one (#9) to retrieve the file for updating an existing version (NOW_V20.EXE), and the other (#10) for those who need the files for a completely new installation (INSTALL.EXE). Both menu selections will also download a copy of the documentation (NOWDOC.EXE) in WordPerfect 6 format. Please review the documentation before you attempt an update.

WISE Update. Greg Jackson has also provided another update of the WISE program. Version 5.06 fixes a problem that may cause a crash while on the geographical area selection screen. The new file is named WISE506.ZIP and has also been placed on the SRH server ready for downloading.

TWEB Update. Rich Leblang has found and fixed a bug that caused an overflow whenever a TAF had a forecast wind direction between 320 and 360 degrees and a visibility less than 1 SM. The TWEB.ZIP file has been updated on the SRH server.

Direct questions to Bernard Meisner or Gordon Hammons in SSD at (817) 978-2671.

AFOS APPLICATION PROGRAM STATUS

New Test Versions of MONITR and TAFDEC. TDL has mailed the latest version of the aviation monitor (MONITR, Revision 5.07) and TAF decoding programs (TAFDEC, Revision 1.06) for testing at selected offices. This latest iteration of the MONITR/TAFDEC software corrects four additional problems that still existed with the last test release. These are:

  1. Error messages indicating that the "MTR TIME IS BEYOND TAF VALID PERIOD," when indeed it is not.

  2. "AMD NOT SKED ..." is no longer treated as a completely NIL TAF. The TAF up to the point of this phrase is processed normally.

  3. One line TAFs are now processed properly.

  4. The occurrence of repeating amendment or alert messages, all for the same problem, appears to have been eliminated. However, TDL wants field confirmation of this.

    Other problems still exist such as (1) occasional improper processing of TEMPO groups, which may result in improper amendments or alerts; (2) the inability to process wind shear (WS) in the TAF resulting in an indeterminate error; and (3) incorrect decoding of later time groups in the TAF which again results in improper amendments or alerts.

If the field site tests are successful, TDL plans to release this version to all field sites within a couple of weeks.

Field Testing of the AFOS ASOSCOMP Program. TDL has distributed the first official test version of the ASOSCOMP program. This is the second program in the suite of software that is being designed to improve the quality of ASOS observations. While the CHKSFCOBS program currently in use was designed to notify the user of missing aeronautically required elements, missing observations, and to some extent format problems, the ASOSCOMP program is designed to notify the user more of meteorological discrepancies or inconsistencies. The program is used to compare observations from different observing stations with user-specified thresholds.

As usual, the further distribution of the program will depend upon the results of the current tests. If successful, the program will likely be distributed to all AFOS offices in the near future.

SYSTEMS OPERATIONS DIVISION

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION BRANCH

NWSO HAWK INSTALLATION. NWSOs have received the equipment and hardware for the AFOS Hawk installation. Installations will be taking place over the next few weeks. So far, installations have gone fairly well with only a few software difficulties being reported. One difficulty was recovering SYSA and BUSYSA; the other was with the SOTOHAWK, but that problem was alleviated by reloading the macro until it worked. Another suggestion that has been made is to load the Hawk and make sure it is running properly prior to installing it into your AFOS chassis. This will give you a little extra time to iron out any problems you encounter. If you have any problems, please call Cyndie Abelman at (817) 978-2367 x124 or Bill Horde at (901)766-2965.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS DOLLAR-SAVING TIP. Are you draining your cellular phone battery in anticipation of receiving that important phone call? Well, don't despair. The best package for portable communications is to carry a pager and a hand-held cellular telephones. Keep the pager turned on and the cellular phone turned off. Have your colleagues page you, then call them back either from your cellular phone or from a coin phone if there is one handy. The coin phone will be cheaper using your FTS2000 Calling Card, and your communications will be clearer.

WEB PAGE COUNTERS AND CLOCK. Since the Southern Region Web server (www.srh.noaa.gov) officially went on line, many stations have asked for a page counter so they can keep track of hits on their office pages. After many trials and errors, a counter system has been installed into the server. This counter can be activated only on the www.srh.noaa.gov server. If an "off sight" page counter is needed, we can activate one for you. The following HTML context runs the counter:

img src="scripts/counter.exe?link= test1&style=odometer"

You should replace the field "test1" with a unique name for each page that you want to track. If you wish to count many different pages, you will need to use different names for the field. Please remember to use a unique name for your station. The name "weather" or "my.weather.page" would not be considered unique to your page.

To run the clock (non-java), place the following HTML code in your page:

img src="/scripts/clock.exe?-lhh:MMm" alt="[clock]" border=0

To see all of the options that this counter has, look at the SRH training page:

http://www.srh.noaa.gov/training

cc:MAIL OVER THE FRAME. NWSO Lake Charles became the first Southern Region office with a cc:Mail post office to establish a connection with the regional cc:Mail routing post office over the frame relay. Danny Dowden purchased OnNet v2.1 from FTP Software, Inc. He installed it on a Windows 95 computer that also handles dial-in remote cc:Mail users. After coordinating the final details with Leon Minton, the messages began to flow over the frame which eliminates the hourly phone calls to Ft. Worth. Leon is ready to help more offices do the same.

OBSERVATIONS AND FACILITIES BRANCH

UPPER AIR STATISTICS. Attached are the Upper Air Statistics for September. These figures will be posted in future editions of Southern Topics as they become available. Gene Witsman will be the new Upper Air Program Manager as of December 1. Please refer any Upper Air Program questions or problems to Gene at (817) 978-2367 x129.

THOMAS JEFFERSON AWARD. The Thomas Jefferson Award was presented to Dawson "DOC" Campbell at a celebration at his home in the Gila Wilderness area of New Mexico. The award was presented to DOC and his family by representatives from the offices at El Paso and Albuquerque. Several friends and neighbors joined the NWS group in the presentation of the award.

"DOC" and his family helped pioneer the Gila Wilderness area and continue to live in the area. "DOC" says that the honor is not "his" but belongs to his family who has helped and supported him through the years.

JOHN CAMPANIUS HOLM. The John Campanius Holm Award was presented to Mina Ruth Hart at a ceremony hosted by the National Weather Service Office in Shreveport. The ceremony was held in Mrs. Hart's hometown of Pittsburg where she has been the observer for nearly 30 years. The award was presented by MIC Lee Harrison and DAPM Marion Kuykendall. Several additional NWS employees were in attendance, along with numerous friends and relatives.

PC-ROSA INSTALLATION. The system installation is on an indefinite hold. The DTMF-ASCII converters for the Cooperative Observer Reporting system failed testing and have been returned to the Black Box Corporation for repair and/or replacement. Follow-up testing has been promising, and it is hoped the installation of this new system will begin in early 1997. The computers have been delivered to San Angelo, Shreveport, Jacksonville, and San Juan. All telephone lines are on order, and the software is being tested and reviewed at SRH. The training materials and observation forms are also being reviewed during this period.

ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT DIVISION

OPEN SEASON ON HEALTH BENEFITS. The dates are November 12 through December 9.

TELEPHONE DIRECTORY UPDATES. Please make the following updates to your Southern Region Directory.

ABILENE, (ABI) TX (WSO)

Delete: Michael Young, OIC

Add:Jerry O'Bryant (WCO Designate)

HUNTSVILLE-MADISON, (HSV) AL (WSO)

Delete: Dearl D. Huff, MIC

Add:James V. Dugan, OIC

LAKE CHARLES, (LCH) LA (NWSO)

Effective 11-9-96 - Steve Rinard, MIC

PENSACOLA, (NPA) FL (WSO)

Delete: James Dugan, OIC

TULSA, (TSA) (TUL) OK (NWSFO)

Add:Lans P. Rothfusz, MIC

WEST PALM BEACH, (PBI) FL (WSO)

Mail Delivery:

NWS Office

P.O. Box 17750

West Palm Beach, FL 33416

Shipping and overnight:

NWS Office

4245 Southern Blvd.

West Palm Beach, FL 33406

DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES

NWSO SHREVEPORT. MIC Lee Harrison and intern Bill Parker mailed contact letters to science coordinators in each of NWSO parishes offering NWS assistance to help enlighten and educate students about the field of meteorology. Bill Parker gave a talk at Jackson State University on the NWS Modernization and how it affects students today.

NWSO CORPUS CHRISTI. Robert Luna, Hispanic Employment Program Manger, has been very busy attending career fairs at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi,Texas, A&I in Kingsville, and Del Mar College.

NWSFO DALLAS/FORT WORTH. WCM Jim Stefkovich gave four separate 45-minute presentations to 103 fifh-grade students at Morningside Elementary School, the NWSFO's Adopt-A-School. The presentations were about the NWS and basic weather terms and concluded with the showing of the film, "The Awesome Power."

NWSO HOUSTON/GALVESTON. Robert Van Hoven (Asian American Employment Program Manager) reports that the High School/HI-TECH program in the Houston/Galveston area will be under way shortly with the kick-off event to be held at Johnson Space Center in November. The High School/HI-TECH program is an enrichment program for students with disabilities that allows the students to explore careers in science, engineering, and technology. Robert is a member of the program's advisory committee. The committee plans to start several activities including site visits to the NWSO, career workshops, job shadowing, and student summer/part-time employment.

A successful field tour of the NWSO in October by 60 students and faculty of the Seabrook Science Magnet Program was coordinated by Robert and Jean Groover (Science Magnet Program Liaison). During the visit Jim Maxwell demonstrated the use of weather sensors, Andy Stasiowski hosted the office operations tour, while Robert provided weather presentations.

Other members of the NWSO Houston/Galveston staff have also been busy hosting office tours and visiting schools. Charles Roeseler was the host for three students who spent a whole day at the NWSO learning about meteorology. Greg Waller visited Kenneth E. Little Elementary School and made a presentation about weather safety and NWS operations to nearly 50 students. Gene Hafele and Brian Kyle hosted office tours for 50 and 60 students, respectively.

NWSFO NEW ORLEANS/BATON ROUGE. On October 18, NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge MIC Paul Trotter and WSO/COE Vicksburg MIC Donell Woods attended the inauguration of Dr. Clinton Bristow, Jr., the sixteenth president of Alcorn State University. Honored guests included the Mississippi Secretary of State, several state representatives, a Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, and numerous local officials. Delegates from 57 colleges and universities, learned societies and professional organizations were in attendance, including Jackson State, Mississippi State, Mississippi Valley State, University of Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State University, and the executive director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. Paul participated in the ceremony as a delegate of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

NWSO MORRISTOWN. WCM Howard Waldron and forecaster Tod Hyslop participated in an East Tennessee ten-county Career Day at Roane State Community College for 3500 eighth-grade students. This was a very informative day both for the students and Howard and Tod. The students' questions about careers in weather were very insightful and thoughtful. Approximately 350 students visited the NWS booth. Hopefully this will become an annual event as it is a great opportunity for young people to be exposed to possible careers in science and mathematics.

SOUTHERN REGION HEADQUARTERS. Sam Balandran, Regional EEO Manager, began his second year at North Hi Mount Elementary, not as a student, but as a mentor for a fifth- grade student. The Mentor Program introduces fifth grade students to persons in the community. Several visits are made to the work site and at the end of the school year the student and mentor make a presentation to the entire school on the mentor's career field.

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