UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas
April 1, 1997
RECORDED FORECAST FOR ATHENS. The Zone Forecast for the Athens, Georgia, area is now available by phone recording. Service began March 1 through the efforts of WEATHERLINE, Inc., St. Louis. The recording number is 706-227-3300. WEATHERLINE, Inc., now has service in 24 Southern Region cities.
DISCONTINUATION OF LOCAL FORECASTS. Progress is continuing to eliminate the remaining 30 Local Forecasts (LFPs) in the Southern Region. By April 15, five more will be stopped in lieu of using the appropriate Zone Forecast. The five LFPs that will cease by April 15 are at Oklahoma City, Wichita Falls, Waco, Albuquerque, and the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. Plans are to phase out most of the remaining LFPs as time permits.
SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEKS. Congratulations again to all Southern Region offices for your efforts in conducting Severe Weather Awareness Weeks in your areas. Some highlights of the week are included below:
Bruce Burkman (WCM, NWSO Shreveport) conducted a tornado drill during their SWAW, and achieved an impressive level of participation. In all, a total of 57 emergency managers, 19 nursing homes, 12 TV stations, 26 radio stations, and over 800 schools participated in their drill. The drills were mentioned or promoted by 73 newspapers in their area as well.
Larry Eblen (WCM, NWSFO Austin/San Antonio) worked closely with the media in both the Austin and San Antonio areas. All three of the Austin television stations aired specials on severe weather in the Austin area during the week. The specials included interviews with the NWSFO staff. KLBJ radio, Austin's primary EAS radio station, conducted several interviews with the NWSFO staff as well. Two of the San Antonio stations interviewed members of the NWSFO staff. One of these stations aired an interview every day, then placed the interviews on the station's Internet home page.
Doug Crowley (WCM, NWSO Amarillo) engaged in a high level of outreach activity throughout the month of March. During the month, NWSO staff provided ten office tours and 17 media interviews. Staff members participated in four talks to civic/school groups, five science fairs, and nine spotter training sessions. Doug reported that this was a record number of contacts for March, despite the fact that Amarillo now has a smaller CWA than in previous years.
Richard May (WCM, NWSO San Angelo) was actively involved with the media in the San Angelo and Abilene areas. All of the television stations aired interviews with the NWSO staff and/or special programming during the week. Richard participated in a noon talk show on KKSA radio, the primary source of severe weather information in San Angelo, and distributed videos and brochures to local schools.
Larry Vannozzi (WCM, NWSFO Lubbock) reports that the NWSFO staffed their annual severe weather information booth at the South Plains Mall in Lubbock. Over 1,300 people stopped by to pick up hazardous weather brochures, watch tornado videos, and/or listen to the local NOAA Weather Radio broadcast. Also during SWAW, Larry and Andy Anderson (MIC) participated with the City of Lubbock in a severe weather seminar. The meeting drew 45 officials from the Department of Public Safety, Texas Tech University, the Lubbock School District, Reese Air Force Base, and other agencies. The seminar covered such topics as EAS, the use of 911 during severe weather, and local warning mechanisms.
MEDIA TRAINING. Alan Moller (FIC, NWSFO Fort Worth) spoke to approximately 20 reporters, news anchors, and photographers at the FOX television affiliate in Dallas. The presentation was scheduled at the request of the TV station's meteorologists and was geared for those staff who will be doing live reports from near severe storms this spring. During his talk, Alan discussed severe weather climatology, formative processes, and safety rules. After the presentation, Alan provided an interview on general severe weather safety rules which aired the following day.
RIP CURRENT PREPAREDNESS. Dennis Decker (WCM, NWSO Melbourne) and Randy Lascody (forecaster) met with representatives of the Florida Beach Patrol. Randy has compiled an extensive rip current study of the Melbourne CWA, patterned after the study several years ago by Jim Lushine (NWSFO Miami). The Beach Patrol representatives were enthusiastic about the information Randy provided and about the NWSO's involvement in the rip current problem. Dennis reported that the Beach Patrol and the NWSO plan to work together in the coming months to improve education and reporting of rip currents.
HURRICANE COORDINATION. Israel Matos (MIC) and Rafael Mojica (WCM) of NWSFO San Juan have been on the hurricane preparedness and coordination trail over the past several weeks. The NWSFO joined the government of the U.S. Virgin Islands, FEMA Region II, the Virgin Islands Emergency Manager, and many other agencies in their annual hurricane exercise. The NWSFO provided meteorological support in designing the exercise scenario and prepared mock Hurricane Local Statements using simulated WSR-88D data.
Rafael conducted a five-hour hurricane workshop on climatology and hurricanes for science and math teachers at the Metropolitan University in San Juan. Rafael also conducted a hurricane workshop for 250 emergency managers across Puerto Rico and taught a basic weather class (emphasizing NWS products and services) for the staff of one of the San Juan television stations.
SPOTTER KUDOS. Doug Crowley (WCM, NWSO Amarillo) recently received a letter of thanks from Ralph Jackson, Operations Officer at the Amarillo Emergency Management Agency. In his letter, Mr. Jackson stated:
Without you and the National Weather Service, we would be of very little use to our citizens. You may never know the day-to-day value you provide to us as spotters and as citizens of Amarillo.... May no one ever take "Mother Nature" for granted enough to limit what you provide to us.
While Mr. Jackson's comments were directed specifically to the Amarillo office, the same can be said for all of the WCMs and staffs in our offices. Let us echo Mr. Jackson's comments and words of thanks as well.
HSAT ATTACHMENT. A Southern Region Hydrologic Services Advisory Team has been formed to help evaluate and guide the development of modernized hydrometeorological services in the Southern Region. The team is composed of 12 members from RFCs, WFOs, and SRH divisions. One item that has already generated considerable discussion is the use of a new product, the Hydrometeorological Coordination Message (HCM). See the attachment to this issue of Topics for more information about this important product. The next issue of Topics will include an attachment discussing another important modernization tool, the HydroMeteorological Discussion (HMD).
Palmer Drought Index. Latest information from the Palmer Drought Severity Index indicates the southern half of Florida remains in moderate drought. The remainder of the Southern Region states are either near normal or wetter than normal. Those areas experiencing abnormally moist conditions include all of Arkansas and most of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. Rivers continue in flood throughout the Lower Mississippi Valley, with the crest of the Mississippi flood wave passing through southern Louisiana as of the issue date of this publication.
Memphis Flood Update. Service hydrologist Buzz Merchlewitz (NWSFO Memphis) tells us the Mississippi River crested at 40.8 feet at Memphis the evening of March 15. This marks the highest level since 1937 when the river rose to a level of 48.7 feet. In 1973 a crest of 40.5 feet occurred. Because the city of Memphis lies on a bluff above the river, major flooding did not occur with the most recent crest. However, backwater flooding from tributaries flowing into the Mississippi did force the evacuation of several mobile home parks.
Lower Mississippi River Update. Paul Trotter (MIC, NWSFO New Orleans) provided the following information on the impact of the high water levels on the Mississippi River. Recently, the Coast Guard imposed a maximum tow of 25 barges down from the normal of 35 to 40 barges. A speed restriction was also imposed. Some shipping interests will incur double their costs as a result of these restrictions.
Because of the abnormally high water volume on the Mississippi, silt deposits have increased dramatically. The Army Corps of Engineers, whose budget has been cut in half, predicts that they will expend all of their funds by the end of March. An additional $30 million is required to continue the dredging through the end of the year. A result of the increased sediment and high flow are areas on the river where ships cannot pass, but must wait for one ship to pass a restriction before another can resume. Ships, therefore, are taking longer to get up and down the river, with delays getting through the industrial canal locks sometimes lasting up to 72 hours. "Bumps, scrapes, and bruises" among the ships and barges have increased also.
Fifteen Louisiana parishes have declared local states of emergency since March 17. Catahoula Parish reported voluntary evacuations still in effect in the Lake Larto and Sicily Island areas with two established Red Cross shelters. In western Feliciana Parish, the state penitentiary at Angola was impacted with "on-again off-again" prison evacuations and the establishment of a "tent city."
The following are flood stages, forecast crests, and crest dates for several locations along the Mississippi River:
Location Flood Stage (ft.) Crest (ft.) Crest Date
Vicksburg 43.0 48.7 3/26
Natchez 48.0 56.4 3/28
Red River Landing 48.0 61.4 3/28
Baton Rouge 35.0 44.0 3/29
Donaldsonville 27.0 32.5 3/29
Reserve 22.0 24.2 3/30
New Orleans 17.0 16.9 **
**At New Orleans, the stage was 16.8 feet as of March 26. Due to the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway on March 17, the river in New Orleans has crested. However, no fall is expected, with the river remaining basically unchanged into the first week of April. The flood stage at New Orleans is 17 feet, but levees protect the city of New Orleans to 20 feet. Shipping activities along the river will continue to be affected as the river remains high and river currents remain strong.
NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS
Applying Climatology to QPF. NWSFO Miami hydrologic focal point Jere Gallup tells us that personnel from the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) provided the office with some useful climatological information. This climatology has been applied to South Florida QPF forecasting. South Florida's mean rainfall is stratified by synoptic pattern, weather event type, and overriding mesoscale influence or flow regime. While the derived climatology is admittedly "broad brush," it is fundamental to improved QPF forecasting for any office's HSA and is quite useful in confirming the relative significance of known weather events in an area.
Hydrologic Workshop Slated for Norman. The NWSFO Norman will be hosting an End-Users Workshop in April. Invitees include members of the ABRFC, NWSFO Tulsa, NWSFO Norman, NWSFO Lubbock, USGS, U.S. Corps of Engineers Tulsa, Bureaus of Reclamation Austin and Oklahoma City, and FEMA Region VI in Denton, Texas. Topics to be covered include RFC operations, hydrologic operations at a NWSFO, NWS river forecasting and USGS stream gaging support, NWS product dissemination types and EMWIN.
Road Warrior. NWSFO Peachtree City senior service hydrologist Gary Butler had a very busy February. He made station visits to the Ocmulgee River at Macon and Walnut Creek on highway 129 in Bibb County on the 6th. He then traveled to Arcade on the Middle Oconee River, Athens on the North Oconee River, and Penfield on the Oconee River on the 18th. Finally, Gary made his way to Monticello on Maurder Creek, Little River, at Eatonville and to the Apalachee River at Bostwick.
Information Exchange. Frank Alsheimer (service hydrologist, NWSO Tampa Bay), Dennis Decker (WCM, NWSO Melbourne), and Peggy Glitto (hydrologic focal point, NWSO Melbourne) toured Stone Island on Lake Monroe in the St. John's River Basin. The area experienced flooding during heavy rains which accompanied tropical storm Gordon in 1994. Mr. Decker, who led the tour, also showed slides of the flooding. While at the Melbourne office, Frank made note of climatological records, norms, and local office studies to better acquaint himself with the patterns associated with eastern Florida heavy rain and flood events.
THE FIRST WEATHER RADAR NETWORK. On May 11, 1953, one of the deadliest tornadoes on record--rated years later an F5--struck Waco, Texas, killing 114 and injuring 597. The tornado hit at 4:36 p.m. Four minutes before that, a student assistant in the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M College photographed the PPI scope of the modified SN 7 (10 cm) radar which was being used in a weather-related research project. A comma-shaped echo on the 80 mi range marker attracted no special attention (although, remarkably, the first radar hook echo photograph had been taken less than a month earlier in Illinois). Once word of the tornado reached them, personnel involved in the research project began an all-night vigil on the radar; and by the next day it was clear that a means was at hand for preventing the large loss of life such as occurred at Waco.
Subsequent events, which unfolded in a matter of weeks and involved the Southern Region (then Region II) Headquarters, Texas A&M, Texas public safety officials, and others from public and private sectors in Texas, led quickly to the Texas Radar Project. This was no doubt the first large (Texas-size, after all) weather radar network. Initial radar installations began later in 1953, and within two years the network had grown to 19 radars in Texas and Louisiana. These were modified military radars which became the WSR-1s. More details are included in a technical attachment to this week's Topics. We're calling attention to this to emphasize that the roots of radar warnings, emergency response, public awareness, and NWS/university collaboration were all there 47 years ago.
WATADS VERSION 9.0 BETA TEST. NWSO San Angelo and NWSO Tallahassee participated in a beta test of Version 9.0 of the WSR-88D Algorithm Testing and Display System (WATADS) software during March. WATADS 9.0 incorporates WSR-88D Build 9 versions of SCIT (Storm Cell Identification and Tracking), HDA (Hail Detection Algorithm), Cell and Grid-based VIL products, latest versions of NSSL enhanced radar algorithms, vertical cross-sections, multi-panel displays, a graphical user interface main menu, and a few other new features. Users will be able to view or print out the documentation using the freely distributed Adobe Acrobat Reader (included in WATADS software bundle). Florida State University and Texas Tech University also participated in the test. The Operational Support Facility and NSSL will evaluate the results of those tests prior to a network-wide release of the software.
CIRCUIT RIDER. Following a similar path as in yesteryear--if not on horseback--Bernard Meisner (SSD) turned circuit rider in March, spending two weeks and driving 2,000 miles "out West" visiting offices in El Paso, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, and San Angelo. Along the way he worked with forecasters at each office, providing operational assistance to help better understand how to set up and use applications programs and other tools associated with the new data sets that are part of NWS modernization, including high-resolution gridded model output, digital satellite data, the regional Frame Relay network, the PDWs, and the SAC workstations. Bernard gave a seminar entitled "GOES 8/9 Images and Derived Products" at each office, with the exception of NWSFO Lubbock where, by request, he presented "Fire as a Natural Resource Management Tool: A Meteorologist's Perspective." Bernard especially appreciated all those staff who attended the talks during their time off from work. While in Lubbock, Bernard also met with faculty from Texas Tech University and the office staff to review their successful collaboration. Using office seminars and hands-on assistance can be more effective than the telephone or electronic mail. Amarillo SOO Richard Wynne paid Bernard the best of compliments when he said, "Even in these bleak times for your operations, you folks at SSD still try to make things better for us here in the field. That's dedication!" Thanks, Rich; we needed that.
LITTLE ROCK SEMINAR. During March two local WSR-88D seminars were held at NWSFO Little Rock. Forecaster John Lewis discussed his new approach to "VIL of the Day," utilizing and combining other schemes. John also spoke on configuration and detection of bow echoes by the 88D. George Wilken (SOO) described the March 1 tornado outbreak and the detection and warning techniques that were used during the event. Paul Siebenmorgan, NEXRAD ET, then described what forecasters should look at in terms of equipment reliability, including the Delta SysCal and other parameters. About half of the forecast staff attended the initial seminar, which was repeated later in the month for the other half of the staff. Personnel from the Little Rock Air Force Base weather unit were invited to attend both of the seminars.
NEXT GOES UPDATE. Here is a summary of latest information regarding the upcoming launch of GOES-K, extracted from the minutes of a recent GOES Special Issues Working Group meeting. The current plan is for the satellite, after launch, to be held "in reserve," assuming an operational GOES-8 and GOES-9.
a. Launch (to 105W) -- Approximately 2 a.m., April 24, 1997
b. First VIS test image -- May 9
c. First IR test image -- June 2
d. GVAR broadcast on; begin INR characterization -- June 14
e. Begin/end science test schedules -- July 1-10
f. Storage period at 105W -- July 22
These dates are subject to change based on actual launch date and success of post-launch engineering checkout. The following are the "call-up," or operational activation assumptions:
a. GOES-10 to be activated upon failure of the imager, sounder, or a critical non-redundant control subsystem on either GOES-8 or GOES-9.
b. Begin move from 105W to operational station as soon as possible, based on satellite operational constraints.
c. NESDIS and NWS Assistant Administrators to review call-up decision at the time of failure to account for all possible contingencies.
In the event of a GOES-8/9 failure, GOES-10 images should be available within a few days, while soundings and derived products would be on-line within four to seven weeks.
USE OF RAMS MESOSCALE MODEL EXPANDING. The Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (RAMS), a product of NOAA's Forecast Systems Lab and Colorado State University, is now being used at NWSFO San Juan. Working with FSL's Dr. John Snook, San Juan SOO Shawn Bennett has installed the model on an NWSFO workstation, along with University of Wisconsin Vis5d 3-D display software.
The RAMS system is initialized with the 0000 UTC Eta model output and is set up to provide 10 km horizontal resolution output over a Caribbean domain. An 18-hr forecast cycle is generated at one-hour intervals. RAMS completes its forecast cycle at the end of the midnight shift so that output is available for the following day shift. Output can be viewed and animated in 3-D with Vis5d, or within Garp and N-AWIPS/Ntrans as a series of 2-D GEMPAK meta plots. The daily RAMS model run supports forecast operations and applications research at the office. This may well be the first such use of such a high resolution model in the Caribbean.
UNIVERSITY ASSIGNMENT PROGRAM. The annual "Call for Applications" letter for the UAP has been sent to all offices. Please note that the period covered is the academic year (two semesters) which begins next September. Applicants should closely follow the instructions provided in the letter, especially in regard to documenting past academic performance (courses and grades), job-relevancy of the proposed course of study, and the supervisor's endorsement. Applications should be sent to MASC (Attn: MC2x2, Yvonne Henderson) by April 15. Contact SSD for more information about the UAP.
AMS AWARD NOMINATIONS. A letter has been sent to all MICs and HICs inviting nominations for the several awards presented by the American Meteorological Society. In particular, the F.W. Reichelderfer Award, the Charles Mitchell Award, and the Award for an Exceptional Specific Prediction have frequently gone to Southern Region forecasters. During the past year, there have been many significant weather and flood events and many outstanding accomplishments on the part of our employees. The AMS awards provide a means for appropriate professional recognition of those involved. Nominations should be sent to the Regional Director by April 22. We will ensure that they are then sent on to the AMS.
NCEP 1996 ACCOMPLISHMENTS. We recently forwarded to all offices a brief summary of NCEP accomplishments for the past year. This is the first such collective assessment of the national centers, and it highlights many significant forecast successes--from the handling of a major East Coast winter storm at the beginning of the year, to remarkable improvements (and new records) in almost all categories of QPF verification, to outstanding model guidance which helped NHC forecasters set new all-time skill records for hurricane track forecasts. NCEP's Environmental Modeling Center also introduced an unusual number of major model improvements in 1996--including, for example, using radar-derived winds for the first time in a forecast model (the 10 km Eta).
Thanks to our ability to provide WFO forecasters with gridded model and other data by means of the regional frame-relay networks and SAC workstations, the field offices are able to realize maximum benefits as quickly as possible, and thus take fullest advantage of NCEP's accomplishments.
RADAR ASSISTANCE. One of our sites recently experienced a major problem with its WSR-88D. In an effort to expedite the repair process, OSF utilized a new technique. They have formed what they call a TAG TEAM approach to the resolution of problems. They assign several technicians to work with the site, working over the telephone initially when the site technicians are troubleshooting the problem. If the site is working at 3 a.m., one or more members of the TAG TEAM is on the line with them. If the problem is not resolved within a reasonable amount of time, one or more members of the TAG TEAM are dispatched to the site. The idea is to have enough personnel with intimate knowledge of what is transpiring without having to brief another person and bring them up to speed on the problem(s) they are trying to resolve. Our site technicians seem to be pleased with the approach. From our vantage point in the regional office, it appears to be a great idea.
LATEST cc:MAIL. Just a reminder that the latest version of cc:Mail for Windows (Version 2.22.01) has been available for several months on the Southern Region FTP Server located on the Southern Region Web Server computer. Each office should have at least one computer that can access this server. The latest cc:Mail for Windows provides the latest features including, but not limited to, an improved capability to view a bigger selection of attached files, better performance on Windows 95 computers, etc. While running cc:Mail, click on Help and then click on About cc:Mail to find out what version you are using. If using a version older than 2.21, you should upgrade as soon as possible.
HALF-WAY MARK. The half-way mark has been reached for exchanging cc:Mail messages over the frame relay. Fifteen of the 30 Southern Region offices with cc:Mail post offices are now using the NTROUTER program on their Windows NT 4.0 Servers. Compared to the old long distance telephone dial method, exchanging messages over the frame really makes them "fly." Leon Minton is looking forward to working with the remaining offices in order to eliminate long distance phone calls altogether.
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