Fort Worth, Texas

August 15, 1997



DIRECTORS' MEETING. The last week of July provided opportunity for the National Weather Service Director's meeting in Washington, D.C. Although the meeting resulted in few decisions, it was an important week. We were able to have considerable dialogue with Dr. Robert Winokur, Acting Director of NWS, Dr. James Baker, Administrator of NOAA and Richard Daley, Secretary of Commerce. All of these individuals discussed the very difficult situation facing the National Weather Service. We have a number of problems to break down, but all emphasized the very important role of the NWS in the United States and how well the field continues to provide service. A search is now underway for a new Director for NWS, an effort which will disclose candidates by the end of September. Secretary Daley recounted the last couple months and explained the need to replace the NWS Director, put the accelerated SRH closure decision on hold, and appoint a review team to determine NWS budget requirements, as well as take a close look at Southern Region Headquarters operations.

KELLY TEAM VISIT. As mentioned above, Secretary of Commerce Daley has put together a review team to look at several subjects related to the National Weather Service. On Friday, August 15, the team spent the day in Fort Worth receiving briefings on Southern Region operations. The team was headed by U.S.A.F. General Jack Kelly (ret). Other team members included U.S.A.F. General Al Kaehn (ret), and three NWSH staff personnel. Also traveling with the team was NWS Acting Director Dr. Robert Winokur. We spent the morning explaining the functions of Regional Headquarters and describing the regional transition over the past several years. During the afternoon the team met with representatives of user groups who had asked to brief the team. The team seemed quite pleased with the events of the day.


THE LATEST NEWS. Site surveys for the next set of AWIPS deployment sites have been scheduled as follows:

Atlanta WFO/RFC August 18-19

Melbourne WFO September 15-16

Miami WFO September 17-18

Houston WFO September 22-23

Amarillo WFO September 24-25

For the site survey, a team from the PRC, NWSH, and the region will go to each office to survey where the new equipment will be located, the requirements for the communications and electrical work, and the location of the satellite antenna. A survey usually takes a little over a day for a WFO, and the better part of two days for a WFO/RFC.

BUILD 3 USERS CONFERENCE. The last week of August promises to be busy in the world of AWIPS. NWSH will host parallel conferences on AWIPS Build 3 for those sites that will be receiving the new software this fall. One conference will focus on all aspects of the new software including the new capabilities, the system architecture, monitoring and diagnostics, and local software development. The other will focus on the responsibilities of the ESA, monitoring and diagnostics, and system administration aspects. Those attending the conferences will also get the opportunity for some hands-on experience with AWIPS Build 3.


POSTFLIGHT SUMMARY FOR STS-94. Space Shuttle Columbia landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), Florida, at 10:47 UTC, on Thursday, July 17, 1997, after the seven person crew successfully completed their "virtually perfect scientific mission" of 16 days. STS-94 was the reflight of the April 1997, STS-83 Mission, which was shortened prematurely due to a fuel cell problem.

Weather for launch day proved to be exciting. Surface high pressure over Florida and the Gulf of Mexico persisted as a weak upper level trough remained over the eastern US. Winds aloft were generally westerly. Thunderstorms developed along the western coast of Florida and moved east southeastward. Cumulus fields developed as surface heating increased over the land. Showers and thunderstorms developed over central Florida in the late morning and early afternoon hours. As launch time approached, these thunderstorms continued moving east southeastward near the southwest portion of the 20 NM circle surrounding the SLF. Rain showers developed within an hour of launch northwest of the SLF just beyond the 20 NM circle. After the weather recon pilot reported this activity was dissipating and returns from the Melbourne WSR88D confirmed no further development, the RTLS forecast was amended at 17:50 UTC to remove "TSRA WI 20 NM." The count was picked up at the T-9 Minute hold. Two minutes from launch, forecasters at the Range Operations Control notified SMG that the Lightning Detection And Ranging (LDAR) system was detecting lightning from a cell approximately 18 NM south southwest of the SLF. SMG notified the Flight Director that this activity was expected to continue moving away from the SLF and would not impact RTLS.

Columbia lifted off at 18:02 UTC, after a twelve minute wait (due to weather concerns) in the opening of the two and one half hour launch window. With ample high level moisture present, pileus clouds were observed around the vehicle as it lifted through the 30,000 foot level.

Touchdown of Columbia occurred at the SLF, KSC, Florida at 10:47 UTC, July 17. The initial weather concern was for visibility restrictions due to fog. With light winds and high dewpoint temperatures a risk of fog development existed. As on launch day, winds aloft were blowing offshore. Showers in the Gulfstream were persistent. Weak boundaries from the land breeze and out-flow from earlier convection collided and produced a shower near Patrick AFB that developed into a short-lived thunderstorm three hours prior to the de-orbit burn decision. The land breeze continued moving offshore. At 07:50 UTC, SMG updated the forecast to remove fog, due primarily to sufficient wind velocity and mixing in the surface-to-500 foot layer. However, weak showers persisted offshore through the final hour leading to the de-orbit burn decision. At 09:30 UTC, just before the de-orbit burn decision, SMG updated the forecast to include "showers 20 to 30 NM offshore." The Flight Director determined that this would not produce an impact to landing and gave a "GO" for the de-orbit burn at 09:36 UTC. Columbia touched down without incident. Visibility at landing was eight miles in BCFG (Fog Patches). Weather remained favorable through post landing operations.

Lead Meteorologist for STS-94 was Dan Bellue. Tim Garner was the Assistant Lead, and Mark Keehn worked as the Lead Techniques Development Unit (TDU) Meteorologist. Richard Lafosse worked as the Radar Meteorologist. This marked the fourth time that this team of meteorologists has worked a shuttle launch and landing together.

REMINDER.... The new deadline for the July 1996 through June 1997 Service Enhancement Project (SEP) submissions is September 15, 1997. Also, two top awards will be bestowed this year. One will be for the best "handled" short term event and one for the long term event. For details concerning the SEP, please refer to the SRH homepage under "Special Projects."

MARINE SPOTTER TRAINING. Felix Navejar (SOO, NWSO LCH), and Robert Van Hoven (Marine Focal Point, NWSO HOU) went to Sabine Pass to visit NECHES Gulf Marine, to provide Marine Spotter training to ten ship captains from the company.

NECHES Gulf Marine has four lightering ships and four lightering support vessels that stay several days to several weeks offshore from about 50 to 60 nautical miles from Freeport, Galveston, and Sabine Pass.

The successful training of lightering vessel captains will increase the number of lightering ships participating in the Marine Spotter Program from five to thirteen. All of the ships have wind sensors and cell phones on board and can be called upon to provide "On the Spot" marine weather information 24 hours a day.

After the Marine Spotter training, Felix and Robert went aboard a lightering vessel and conversed with several captains who provided feedback on NWS marine products. They especially liked the usefulness of the Short Term Forecasts (NOW) and mentioned the higher accuracy of our marine products as compared to private vendor products.

After the visit to NECHES Gulf Marine, Felix and Robert dropped by Offshore Marine Services, Inc. (OMS) to get feedback from their vessel captains. Five lightering vessels from OMS have been participating in NWSO Houston's Marine Spotter Program for nearly three years now. They have been an invaluable source of spotter information. Tommy Lee, who is the vice president of the company, again mentioned the importance of the marine portion of our Short Term Forecasts to their company.

SOUTHERN OPERATION RAINCHECK. Staff members of NWSO Corpus Christi (CRP) participated in a seminar for local pilots entitled "Operation Raincheck" during the evenings of August 12 and 13. The seminar, which was jointly sponsored by the FAA and the Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, attracted approximately 75 attendees consisting primarily of student pilots and flight instructors.

John Cole, WCM; Tawnya Parke, Meteorologist Intern; and Steve Smart, HMT, gave presentations at the seminar. John briefed the group on the current hurricane season and discussed the NWSO's aviation forecast responsibility, emphasizing how NWS training efforts have focused on the impact of the forecasts on the aviation customers. Also, John addressed technology issues, including the importance of the WSR-88D in mesoscale forecasting.

Tawnya discussed the rudiments of the aviation forecast process. She covered such topics as the structure and format of the TAF, the use of aids in the preparation of the forecasts, and the general philosophy of aviation forecasting in the NWS.

Steve ended the discussions with a briefing on ASOS. His presentation described the components of an ASOS unit and its capabilities. In addition, Steve provided the attendees with the locations of ASOS units within the Corpus Christi County Warning Area, associated ground-to-air frequencies, and information on service level B requirements of the CRP ASOS.

GOES STATUS. Both GOES-8 and GOES-9 have recently undergone reconditioning of their batteries, which is a normal semi-annual practice prior to the onset of the eclipse seasons.

Since a successful flip maneuver was completed on July 31, GOES-10 has been operating in an inverted on-orbit mode with its solar array running in reverse. Plans are for the spacecraft to remain in this mode for another week or two while analysis of the array operation proceeds.

SHORT-FUSE COUNTY BACKUP CHANGES. Effective at 1500 UTC, September 3, 1997, NWS Central Region offices will assume short-fuse backup responsibility for 101 Southern Region counties along the NWS Central Region/Southern Region border. The changes were made based on which office's radar provided the best coverage. The changes break down as follows:

9 counties in NWSO Amarillo's CWA

10 counties in NWSFO Norman's CWA

11 counties in NWSO Tulsa's CWA

8 counties in NWSFO Little Rock's CWA

17 counties in NWSFO Memphis's CWA

20 counties in NWSO Nashville's CWA

26 counties in NWSO Knoxville/Tri-Cities's CWA

The breakdown on Central Region offices gaining CWA backup for Southern Region counties is as follows:

DDC 12 counties

ICT 7 counties

SGF 19 counties

PAH 28 counties

SDF 9 counties

JKL 26 counties

In addition, NWSFO Memphis will provide short-fuse backup for 13 counties in Paducah's CWA in Missouri and Kentucky, and NWSO Tulsa will provide short-fuse backup for 11 counties in Springfield's CWA in Missouri.

Updated attachments to backup ROML S-19-96 filed with WSOM J-03 reflecting these changes have been sent to all offices. Because of the importance of this matter and the many changes made to "backup" assignments, each office should examine the updated ROML Attachments closely. Adjustments to your SRWARN program, etc., are probably needed and should be made as soon as possible.

NEW ORLEANS MAYOR PROMOTES NWR. Many will recall that last year at this time, Ken Graham, Intern at NWSFO New Orleans, was at SRH participating in the STAR program. During his assignment, he finalized his "National Weather Service - NOAA WEATHER RADIO PROMOTIONAL GUIDE FOR A NEW CENTURY," a copy of which was distributed to all offices. Well, Ken practices what he preaches. He's still out promoting NWR. In a recent note Ken stated that the NWSFO was visited by New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, Bob Eichorn, head of the New Orleans Emergency Management Office, numerous city staffers, and the media. Besides launching a radiosonde balloon, the mayor broadcast an NWR promotion. Similar to the highway rest area NWR program, the mayor was approached with an idea about "weather booths" around tourist areas. The booths would have weather brochures and a button to push for a live NWR broadcast. A sign could read "Brought to you by the National Weather Service and the City of New Orleans." The mayor thought it was a great idea, gave a verbal OK, and began to list places where the booths should be placed. A later meeting is planned with city officials by MIC Paul Trotter and Ken.

Several people attended a New Orleans Zephyrs (AAA baseball) game. While there, Ken spoke with the General Manager about getting an NWR promotion sign in the ballpark. With a half-million people or more attending games during a season, it would be a great promotion place (NWR invades America's favorite pastime!). As Ken reminds us, just like the promotion guide said, big promotions can be obtained at no cost to us.

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SUPPORT. Southern Region offices have been providing support to emergency management training and coordination activities. Some highlights are listed below.

NWSFO Peachtree City MIC Carlos Garza, NWSO Jacksonville MIC Steve Letro, and several members of the Peachtree City forecast office staff conducted a three-day hazardous weather and flooding preparedness course for emergency management officials. Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) officials assisted in the course presentation, which included elementary weather concepts, hurricanes, hazardous weather products, and a tabletop exercise. Early feedback from the course was very positive, and GEMA staff expect to expand the course to a regular, semi-annual event.

NWSO El Paso MIC Max Blood and WCM Jack Mercer participated in an exercise to evaluate the emergency plans developed for the Bureau of Reclamation and several local agencies. The exercise involved a heavy rain event that threatened the Lake Mescalero Dam. The exercise was the first that was conducted with the cooperation of multiple agencies, and it demonstrated that a cooperative effort by all parties was needed to prevent a disaster. An additional exercise is planned for late September. Max and Jack hope for more widespread participation in the September exercise.

HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS. As we move toward late August, we approach the climatological peak of the hurricane season. Southern Region coastal offices have continued their strong hurricane preparedness efforts in their County Warning Areas.

NWSO Tampa Bay WCM Walt Zaleski was a guest speaker at the fifth "Hurricanes and Health Care" program. Approximately 350 hospital administrators and emergency management officials were in attendance. Walt's presentation included an overview of hurricanes and tropical storms, the NWS' roles and responsibilities during hurricane threats, the interaction of the NWS, media, and emergency managers, and NWS modernization. Walt emphasized the need for the public to understand the threat, take responsibility, and act when the threat materializes.

NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge MIC Paul Trotter spoke at a hurricane preparedness meeting at the Northshore Medical Center in Slidell. Attendees included emergency managers and the St. Tammany Parish emergency manager. The meeting was a part of the hospital's hurricane planning course.

NWSFO San Juan WCM Rafael Mojica participated in a hurricane safety fair at a shopping mall in Ponce, Puerto Rico. The activity was co-sponsored by the TV Channel 2 news department. All of the weather and news staff were present at the mall, distributing preparedness material, tracking maps, and safety information. The Red Cross, Commonwealth Civil Defense, and FEMA also participated in the event. Channel 2 broadcast some of the activities live, and nearly 5,000 people visited the booth.

NWSO Corpus Christi WCM John Cole joined the Aransas County Emergency Manager for a hurricane seminar. John's program included basic hurricane preparedness rules, as well as some findings from a local hurricane study done by the Corpus Christi office staff. Although the seminar was well advertised and conducted, John was disappointed in the seminar's attendance. John is concerned about the relative complacency experienced along the Texas Coastal Bend, since it has been many years since the area has received a significant hit from a hurricane. This is a topic that is applicable to all of our offices as well. We must constantly battle against complacency as we carry out our hazardous weather preparedness programs.

NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge Forecaster John Guiney and MIC Paul Trotter conducted the last in their series of Hurricane Town Meetings. The meeting, held in St. Tammany Parish on the north side of Lake Ponchartrain, was co-sponsored by a New Orleans TV station. Participants in the meeting included local media, Parish emergency management, Red Cross, and 53rd Weather Squadron officials. After the presentations, the panel fielded questions from over 50 residents on a wide range of hurricane-related topics.

NWSFO Miami WCM Jim Lushine, TPC Public Affairs Officer Frank Lepore, TPC Forecaster Ed Rappaport, and Research Meteorologist Colin McAdie conducted a tropical weather seminar for the local media and emergency managers. Topics included new TPC graphics designed to display the uncertainty in tropical cyclone forecasts, the necessity of symbols in the corner of television screens during watch and warning conditions, information available on the TPC home page, and the impact of El Niño on the 1997 hurricane season. The participants engaged in lively debate on many of these issues, and everyone agreed that future meetings should be scheduled on a regular basis.

PUBLIC OUTREACH. Some notes from around the region....

NWSFO Lubbock Forecaster Tim Tinsley and WCM Larry Vannozzi participated in a live 45-minute radio interview. The interview mainly focused on El Niño and its impacts on the Texas South Plains. Of particular interest to the radio host was El Niño's potential for enhancing winter precipitation in the area. Local studies have shown that the three wettest years, along with five of Lubbock's seven snowiest winters, were El Niño years.

NWSFO Memphis WCM John White spoke at a presentation ceremony at the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in New Albany, MS, thanking the community for their joint efforts in purchasing an EMWIN receiving and rebroadcasting system. The New Albany Wal-Mart store donated a computer and printer to the county Emergency Management Agency, and the distribution center provided funds for purchasing the satellite downlink. The local amateur radio group has pledged to set up a radio rebroadcast of the signal in northeastern Mississippi.

NWSO Corpus Christi (CRP) WCM John Cole participated with NWSO CRP MIC Joe Arellano, NWSFO Austin/San Antonio (EWX) MIC Al Dreumont, RFC Fort Worth Hydrologist Paul Greer, and NWSFO EWX Service Hydrologist John Patton, in a town meeting in Port Lavaca. Other meeting participants included representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, local Emergency Managers, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. The meeting was held in response to concerns voiced by citizens about flooding along the Lower Guadalupe River and Coleto Creek. The town meeting described the NWS river forecast process, the hydrometeorological conditions concerning the flood event, and flood control issues. During the meeting, most of the concerns were directed toward those agencies responsible for flood control.

NWSFO Memphis Meteorologist Gene Rench presented a four-hour talk to an international class studying cotton marketing at Rhodes College in Memphis. The class had 70 attendees from 26 cotton-producing countries. Gene discussed global circulation, climatology of cotton-producing areas, El Niño, hurricanes, and other weather events.


TECHNICAL ATTACHMENT. Attached to this issue of Topics is "A History of QPF in Southern Region," which details QPF efforts dating back to the 1970s. Some of the key players in the development of QPF throughout the region are highlighted. Perhaps you work or have worked with one or two of them.

WET JULY. Heavy rains fell across portions of the New Orleans HSA during July. Ironically, most were not related to Hurricane Danny. Senior service hydrologist Dave Smith says that the Bayou Lafourche, situated between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi basins, received from 10 to 15 inches of rain with the city of Thibodeaux registering 16.39 inches for the month. The HSA wet spot, though, was Pascagoula, Mississippi, which measured 19.40 inches (some of this rain was a result of Danny!).

RESERVOIR LEVELS INCREASE. While a typically hot and dry weather pattern returned to most of Texas in July, runoff from June rains continued to fill South Texas reservoirs to levels they have not seen in several years. NWSO Corpus Christi hydrologic focal point Mark Lenz reports that Choke Canyon reservoir has risen to 45 per cent of capacity with Lake Corpus Christi at 76 per cent of capacity. While not impressive at first glance, these levels compare with 26 per cent of capacity for Choke Canyon and 30 per cent of capacity for Lake Corpus Christi just one year ago.

FLORIDA WATER RESTRICTIONS. Recent heavy rains in Florida have led the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to lift water restrictions for Lee County. Other counties in southwest Florida remain under the water restrictions implemented by the SFWMD due to an extended period of dry weather which began nearly one year ago.

A MONTH WITH NO FLOODING. NWSO Shreveport service hydrologist Craig Ross reports that below to well below normal rainfall occurred across the Shreveport HSA in July. This is only significant in that July 1997 was the first month since July 1996 where no river gaging stations in the Shreveport HSA rose above flood stage. Unfortunately, heavy rains during the first week of August ended the streak. The Attoyac Bayou received its worst flooding in 57 years, with the Angelina River near Lufkin also rising above flood stage.


Alsheimer's Activities. NWSO Tampa Bay Area service hydrologist, Frank Alsheimer, arranged for his office to receive real-time rainfall data via ftp from the St. John's River Water Management District beginning in September. This will save the NWSO the considerable cost of having to dial in to receive the data.

In Lee County Frank has been working with the Public Works Department which has received a number of rain gages slated to be installed (along with telemetry and data logging equipment) in some remote areas. These instruments will provide real-time data to the NWSO in areas that act as headwaters for local drainage flooding problems.

Frank (accompanied by two staff HMTs) also visited gage sites during recent flooding. The trips allowed him and the staff members to check the accuracy of the gage readings and to compare what the streams looked like in flood as opposed to more normal flow.

Lubbock Eliminates River Forecast Points. NWSFO Lubbock service hydrologist Steve Drillette, accompanied by forecasters Ernie Pelto and Marty Mullen, visited all of the hydrologic sites in the headwaters of the Brazos River. The trio surveyed and photographed each site. As a result of the trip, it was determined that three remote discontinued gage sites should no longer be considered river forecast points. Mr. Drillette sent a memorandum detailing the documentation and reasoning for discontinuing the three river forecast points to the Regional Hydrologist. A memo from the Regional Director approving the discontinuation of the forecast points was then issued. This is an excellent example of how service hydrologists should process any modifications, additions, or deletions to river forecast points, flood stages, bankful stages, and so forth, in their HSAs.


Swifter SID Requests. Station Identifier (SID) requests in Southern Region have long been originated at the RFCs and processed through multiple steps using forms sent through standard mail. Typically, a request takes up to two weeks to fully process. A new SID request method will be tested beginning this month. The test market involves the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC) who will originate their requests and then send them through the cc:Mail system directly to the Office of Systems Operations for approval. The LMRFC is presently working on a form to make this transition smooth. Once it can be shown that this automated procedure works as efficiently as expected, Southern Region plans to implement it region wide.


INTERNATIONAL TRAINING. In late July, Shawn Bennett (SOO) and Roberto Garcia (FIC), from NWSFO San Juan, taught at a World Area Forecast System (WAFS)/Numerical Modeling workshop in Asuncion, Paraguay. The workshop is part of the NOAA/NWS involvement in the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the International Civil Aeronautics Organization (ICAO). Shawn worked with Mike Davison and Ralph Petersen (from NCEP) to design the workshop curriculum. The curriculum included discussion of numerical weather prediction, model dynamics, model physics and topographic effects; NWP data assimilation and quality control; post-processing of NWP output; WAFS operations and system administration; and laboratory practical sessions utilizing PC-GRIDDS.

Teaching was entirely in Spanish, and participants were from all across South America, including Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Suriname, Brazil, and Cuba. Ken Macleod, Chief of Aeronautical Meteorology, traveled from Geneva to represent the WMO. WAFS and PC-GRIDDS represent a leap forward in technology; in the past few years they have brought a dramatic improvement in weather forecast products and services to the aviation community in South America.

The NWS--and especially the San Juan NWSFO staff--can take pride in making significant contributions to international affairs. The workshop in Paraguay was a continuation of the NWS/WMO program for South and Central America. Shawn was involved in earlier such activities at Bridgetown, Barbados; San Jose, Costa Rica; and Guatemala City, Guatemala.

EAST TENNESSEE LIGHTNING SEMINAR. Prof. Richard Orville (Texas A&M/CIAMS), a pioneering lightning researcher, visited NWSO Morristown on August 5 to provide a seminar on the use and interpretation of lightning data in the Southern U.S. Eleven of the Knoxville/Tri Cities (Morristown) staff participated, along with seven visitors from nearby NWSFO Birmingham, and NWSOs Greenville/Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Jackson, Kentucky. Dr. Orville discussed lightning physics, the National Lightning Detection Network, and uses of NLDN data in forecast and warning operations. The discussion was very helpful to the Morristown staff, and in fact, Dick's visit was arranged as part of a limited-time risk reduction and assessment of lightning data provided via the regional Frame-relay network, which SSD has initiated with NWSOs Morristown and Jacksonville. More information about the assessment may be found on NWSO Morristown's homepage at:


SPECIAL EXAMINING UNIT CLOSING. The Special Examining Unit at the EASC in Norfolk will close at the end of next month (September). This is the group which manages the Meteorologist Register. Recall that several years ago, all the met registers, which had been maintained at various OPM offices around the country, were consolidated into a single register at the EASC/SEU. A single office and one register made it much easier for students and others interested in government meteorologist positions to "get their names on the list." For the Southern Region, the MASC personnel will assume the functions of the SEU. Exactly how this will work has yet to be announced, but the best advice we can offer to the prospective new hires is for them to contact MASC for further information.

NEW TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM. "Hurricane Return Periods Along the Gulf Coast and Florida" is the title of the most recent NWS Southern Region technical memorandum (NWS SR-192), which was distributed to all offices last week. The authors are Prof. Jim Elsner and his student, A.B. Kara, at the Cooperative Institute for Tropical Meteorology at Florida State University. The study contains maps of the Gulf and Atlantic coastlines from Brownsville, Texas, to Jacksonville, Florida, showing by counties and parishes the return periods and "wait times," in years, for hurricanes. Wait time is defined as the number of consecutive years over which the probability of observing at least one hurricane becomes greater than 50% in the interval of years. Monroe County in Florida (Key West) has the lowest wait time in the nation: two years. Dade and Broward Counties (Miami and Fort Lauderdale), and Galveston County in Texas are all a close second with three year wait times.

Prof. Elsner is also co-author (with G.S. Lehmiller and T.B. Kimberlain at FSU) of a paper titled "Seasonal Prediction Models for North Atlantic Basin Hurricane Location," which appears in the August 1997 Monthly Weather Review. Their study demonstrates the usefulness of an entirely new method of making seasonal hurricane forecasts, results of which can be used to enhance our preparedness activities and heighten the alert status in coastal communities.

LATEST ON EL NIÑO. Prof. Bill Gray has revised his earlier prediction of Atlantic hurricane activity downward slightly because of the unusually strong (and intensifying) El Niño. Even so, other climatic indicators in the Atlantic Basin are favorable for a more active season than usually occurs during El Niño years. He now predicts 11 named storms (we've already had four), six hurricanes (reduced by one) and two intense hurricanes.

Meanwhile, there is growing support for the idea that NCEP's improving long range forecasts for El Niño could lead to significant economic benefits. Consumers and producers in the agricultural sector could see benefits between $240-$324 million per year, according to one study. Related studies have been done by researchers in economics, climatology and plant science at Texas A&M, Florida State, and the University of Arkansas, among other schools.

NOAA's Office of Global Programs has introduced an ENSO web site which does a nice job of pulling lots of information together in a simple way to track the ongoing El Niño event. It can be found at http://www.ogp.noaa.gov/enso/. It also contains links to several other NOAA and external sites. The media and public may find this a useful source of basic and developing information. Contact Dr. Mark Eakin at the NOAA/Global Programs Office (eakin@ogp.noaa.gov) for more information, or to provide comments.

THE 1997 SOO/SAC SURVEY. To evaluate the present status and plan for the future of the SAC Program, each SOO/DOH is requested to provide information about how their SAC is being used. Only one survey response per office will be allowed. The survey is located at: http://www.comet.ucar.edu/pub_html/sac_html/survey97/survey.html.

It is also available as a link from the SOO/SAC Homepage. Please complete the survey before August 22. If you can't meet that deadline, please contact Peggy Bruehl, the National SAC Coordinator.

It is important that each office responds to this survey. Like last year, most of the questions are multiple choice. Short answer questions are always optional. Please see the survey homepage for more information.

AUGUST 1997 RELEASE OF PC-GRIDDS. The August 1997 release of PC-GRIDDS is now available by selecting the Software and Documentation Available from the NWS option in the NWS Web site (URL: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/software/). The new software is also available for anonymous FTP transfer at: www.nws.noaa.gov and the Southern Region data server (in the /ext1/download/PC-GRIDDS subdirectory).

The August 1997 version includes modifications to both the June 1997 and October 1996 versions. These changes are described in the documentation available on the NWS Web site, or by selecting the Local Applications Development option from the SRH SSD Web page.

The PC-GRIDDS User's Guide was upgraded for this release. However, the replacement pages for the NWS menus are not yet available. In general, these pages replace figures displaying WAFS menus with the corresponding NWS menus, but have little effect on the text description. These pages do not affect the NWS ingest sections.

NEW MODEL OUTPUT ON THE OSO AND SRH SERVERS. In response to requests from field offices, additional model output has recently been added to the OSO server. This includes many more data times, parameters and levels for both the MRF, and AVN models. The AVN model output is now available four times per day.

The Office of Meteorology is developing a user-driven, requirements and user feedback plan, that will be distributed for field review/comment. The AWIPS/NOAAPORT Program Plan is a proposed methodology to streamline the "request to implementation" process. It is also intended to serve as a method for the evaluation of satellite and model data via a new NOAAPORT homepage. The user feedback will be accessed directly by the data producers (modelers/satellite scientists at NESDIS, etc.). The plan will also speed AWIPS data implementation by identifying AWIPS system impacts before a formal DRG request is made.

TELETRAINING HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE. The hardware and software needed to prepare the Professional Development Workstations (PDWs) for teletraining has been delivered to all WFOs, CWSUs, the SMG, and our two NWS Southern Region Cooperative Institutes. This includes the following:

Polycom conference telephone

Acecat III graphics tablet

Optel Voice Too modem

Telewriter 2000 software and User's Guide

Offices should have separately purchased and installed Windows 95 and a LAN card, or, in the case of the CWSUs, a second high-speed modem, to connect the PDW to the Internet.

Instructions for installing this equipment and a sample Audiographics lesson are available on the Operational Support Facility's OTB Teletraining Support Web page (choose Training and Professional Development from the SRH SSD Web page). Once offices have successfully installed the equipment, please contact Bernard Meisner in SSD to arrange for a test of the hardware and software. Bernard has a sample "How to Use Audiographics" lesson ready to present. Offices may also schedule a presentation of his "Overview of NHC Guidance Models" teletraining lesson.

See the technical attachments in each of the past two issues of Topics for outlines of two OSF WSR-88D courses that will rely heavily on teletraining.

WINDEX WEB PAGE. Thanks to the efforts of Rusty Pfost and Greg Garrett (NWSFO JAN), Peggy Bruehl (OM), and Bernard Meisner (SSD) there are now real-time Southern Region WINDEX maps on an SRH Web page. The URL is:


WINDEX was developed by Donald McCann at the Storm Prediction Center to identify air masses favorable for microbursts. It provides an estimate of the maximum potential wind gusts (in knots) at the surface that can be supported by current atmospheric conditions.

The Southern Region WINDEX analysis is based on the hourly surface RUC and the three hourly upper air RUC. A new map is generated each hour as soon as the surface RUC becomes available, usually about 30-45 minutes after the hour. The page also contains a link to the NESDIS experimental GOES microburst product and links to high resolution, visible satellite imagery for the Region from NCAR.



PROPERTY MANAGEMENT. Southern Region Headquarters is starting a sweep of its property records. We have completed most of the inventory adjustment from the NOAA orders, and we are now starting on the MASC orders. We have discovered several major problems in reviewing the property forms.

The first concern is the improper use of the CD-52. The CD-52 is for lost or stolen property. It is not supposed to be used for general disposal. Computer equipment should be turned over to GSA through their disposal system. The CD-120 is the form which must be completed for this purpose.

The term cannibalized is the kiss of death in property circles. If you take a component out of one computer to fix another computer, put the broken piece in the first computer and dispose of it through GSA channels. (I did not make that up.)

There is one more problem area that we found. Several months ago NOAA public affairs had a press release that said that government agencies could bypass GSA if they were donating the computer equipment to a school. Well, it turns out that the Department of Commerce chose not to participate in that program. The only way around this is to sign a loan agreement with the school for an indeterminate amount of time.

Finally, there is an error in the property handbook that MASC distributed. On page 13, the handbook says that computer equipment automatically falls off the list after five years. If you look at your property listing you have probably discovered that this doesn't happen. Basically, the policy is a misprint. The only way to remove property is to fill out the forms. We will continue to add information to the staff notes to help offices get their property listings in top shape.

THREE TO GO. All but three of the thirty cc:Mail post offices in Southern Region are exchanging cc:Mail messages over the frame relay or Internet. These exchanges are set up on a ten minute cycle which cuts down on message queuing. Leon Minton is actively working with the remaining three WFOs to complete the transition by the end of the fiscal year, as directed. This will put us in a good position to proceed with the cc:Mail upgrades that are part of a major near-term goal of NWSH. The upgrades will finally bring features we have been waiting on for many months. One of the features is the ability to do maintenance on the post office database 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without having to knock folks off cc:Mail. It will also bring true 32-bit Windows 95 and Windows NT client software. The list of new features is too long to include in this brief summary but has been provided to all the cc:Mail focal points at the WFOs, if you are interested in the full details.

AFOS BACKUPS. We recently went through a spell where the NWSOs were experiencing difficulties with their AFOS DZ0 backup diskettes. Apparently, the diskettes did not contain the WINRECOV directory. It is very important that each office verifies that you have a complete set of backup disks and that WINRECOV resides on them. If not, please call Cyndie Abelman, (817) 978-2367 x 124, to get a copy.

NEW AFOS SOFTWARE. New versions of TAFDEC were released to the field on August 11. Please ensure that you are using version 2.10, as there were some problems with version 2.11. In addition, new versions of VERIFY (version 12.03) and SAODECII (version 12.20) were distributed last week. If your office did not receive these, please contact Cyndie Abelman at (817) 978-2367 x 124.

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