UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas
August 1, 1998
NWS Director Jack Kelly recently sent each NWS office copies of overlays describing the philosophy of the NWS that will be used to accomplish the challenges of the 21st Century. Each office has been sent a copy so that we will all have a better understanding of our new direction. As Jack states up front, the world is changing around us and either we make the necessary changes or it will be done by others. So, I took the opportunity during our periodic field managers' conference call to discuss several points, early conclusions and effects the process will have on operations and the performance plans of the regional/field managers. Following are some of the points I stressed in that recent field office conference call.
In addition to modernization and restructuring of the NWS, we see many more changes all around us as the world continues to evolve in many ways. It is essential to our success as an agency that we continue to look for ways to improve our services and our relationship with our partners and customers. As we move ahead, the NWS Mission remains the driving force, but how it is applied will evolve as we are challenged. This visionary theme emphasizes the importance of working with our mission partners and our customers through what must be a continuous improvement of our services and products. Accordingly, our future performance plans will change as we take ownership of the strategic goals of the agency. The plans will reflect these challenges and will set higher goals and standards than ever before. What does this mean more specifically? Well, for example, we will need to maintain:
Certainly there will be many more performance issues yet to evolve and they will be key parts of our operational responsibilities. Nevertheless, all of the above items are critical and the inadequate performance of any single one can adversely impact a rating. With a mission such as ours, our top priority is obviously the safety of the American people. There cannot be any compromise to our mission priorities and capabilities. We must manage and nurture our resources in the most effective way. We must be prudent to not do anything which undermines capability nor loses us credibility.
RAPID RESPONSE TO LOSS OF RADAR DATA. When a violent telephone company strike in Puerto Rico in July cut off all WSR-88D data to nearly everyone but the local NWS office, Southern and Eastern Region staff, working with the FAA and NWSFO San Juan, reacted quickly to restore the critical data to all users, including NCEP/NHC, the OSF, NIDS vendors, the Navy and RFC Atlanta. The frame relay network and the Southern Region server here at SRH were key parts of the solution. With the hurricane season upon us, the response in this potentially critical situation was outstanding. Congratulations to everyone who was involved in this emergency response. See SOD's section of this month's Topics for more details.
ZION NATIONAL PARK FLOOD AND AWIPS. A flash flood in Zion National Park on July 27 provided a dramatic example of how AWIPS and forecaster skill can save lives. Thanks to the Western Region for sharing a summary of the event which we provide in edited form below.
NWSFO Salt Lake City issued a flash flood watch for southwest Utah at 4:15 am on July 27. Thunderstorms developed over nearly the entire state during the afternoon. Forecasters animated the WSR-88D Storm Total Precipitation products on AWIPS, combining those with a high resolution terrain image. Radar estimates indicated 3.0-3.5 inches an hour in the mountains northeast of Zion. By fading and toggling the rainfall and terrain images it was easy to see the rain was falling over the upper reaches of a small stream that flows through Zion in a slot canyon known as the "Narrows." In places, shear vertical walls are about 20-25 feet apart and there is no escape to high ground. The Narrows is popular with hikers, and it has been the site of previous flash flood fatalities.
The park was advised at 2:00 pm of heavy rainfall in the headwaters of the Virgin River, and at 2:55 pm a flash flood warning was issued. The heaviest rainfall was 21 miles above the trailhead. A Park Service ranger noted a 3 foot flood crest in the Narrows about 4:00 pm, 8 miles upstream from the trailhead. Seven hikers later said they were aware of the warning but ignored it and began hiking up the Narrows anyway. They encountered the flood crest between 5:00 and 6:00 pm; luckily, they were in one of the few places where they could get to higher ground. They spotted a body floating downstream and retrieved it, then spent the night in the canyon waiting for the water to recede. NWS watches, warnings and outlooks are posted at the park visitor center, and based on the warnings rangers advised visitors not to hike in Zion's slot canyons. One ranger convinced a group of 40 not to enter the Narrows after the flash flood warning was issued.
Prior to the inclusion of radar data into AWIPS, I believe forecasters would have had a difficult time with this event. Animation on the PUP is slow and only one product can be animated at a time. Without the high speed animation provided by AWIPS, it is difficult to monitor all the products produced by the 88D, and it is much more difficult to see the rapidly changing colors associated with heavy rainfall in the STP product. With AWIPS, multiple radar images can be animated simultaneously, and this is routinely done. Most critically in this situation, the ability to combine images allowed forecasters to accurately place the heavy rain in the correct drainage, even though it was more than 20 miles from the threat area. This allowed forecasters to issue a warning many hours before downstream flooding in the Narrows. There was at least one fatality in this event, but it is clear there could have been many more if the warning had not been issued with this kind of lead time. There is no question in the minds of the Salt Lake City forecasters that the new capabilities on AWIPS made THE difference in this event.
HEAT WAVE...MEDIA INTEREST. The intense heat wave which has impacted the western portion of the Southern Region has generated a tremendous amount of attention. The many offices which have been impacted by the heat wave and drought have done a tremendous job in issuing advisories and other products, and posting essential information on their Web pages. In addition, the offices have responded to a nearly-overwhelming number of media inquiries. Dozens of newspapers, magazines, and local television stations have asked for interviews, as well as all of the major cable TV news networks. Media inquiries have even come from as far away as England and Italy! Congratulations and thanks go out to these offices...keep up the fine work!
LITTLE ROCK BRIEFINGS. NWSFO Little Rock forecaster Greg Meffert returned to his office in mid-July following the second of two tours as Fire Weather Incident Meteorologist on the Florida wildfires. Greg was one of several IMETS from NWS offices across the country who responded to this record-setting fire episode. Greg was stationed at a fire camp and provided morning briefings to advise firefighters of what meteorological conditions to expect, during the day. Greg said the efforts of the IMETS were well-received by the firefighters. We can second that; the response and service by all the NWS individuals who were involved was nothing less than outstanding.
Also at Little Rock, acting MIC (and SOO) George Wilken and the NWSFO staff provided a briefing in mid-July to John Yates, aide and district manager for Congressman Vic Snyderon. The subjects were Weather Service Modernization and NWS operations both in Arkansas and nationwide. Mr. Yates brought along three interns from their office so that all might gain knowledge of NWS operations. He was very interested in the service provided to the people of Arkansas by the NWS, especially in the area of severe weather warnings.
SPACEFLIGHT METEOROLOGY GROUP HONORED. The NWS Spaceflight Meteorology Group at Johnson Space Center is the first NWS office certified to ISO 9001 standards. This occurred in conjunction with Johnson Space Center's ISO 9001 certification. Johnson Space Center was the first of the NASA centers to receive ISO certification when National Quality Assurance (NQA), a third-party auditor, presented the certificate of ISO 9001 registration to JSC Director George Abbey.
ISO 9001 comprises the most detailed, comprehensive set of standard requirements for quality programs established by the International Standards Organization (ISO). To date, nearly 20,000 U.S. organizations have received ISO 9001 certification. NASA is the first federal agency to seek the quality certification as an entire agency. In its most simplified terms, ISO 9001 means "say what you do; do what you say." As part of this effort, all JSC entities with human spaceflight responsibilities, including SMG, were required to organize internal procedures, clarify the procedure change process, and ensure that an effective problem identification and resolution system is in place.
On July 7, the JSC ISO 9001 project manager presented SMG with a framed copy of the JSC's ISO 9001 registration certificate, acknowledging SMG's active participation in the certification process. Congratulations to MIC Frank Brody and the SMG staff.
FLORIDA FIRE WEATHER SUPPORT. Several Southern Region offices have participated and are continuing to participate in the active fire season across the South. The recent unprecedented outbreak of wildfires in Florida generated much media attention and drew support from all of the Florida NWS offices, as well as the offices in Albuquerque, New Orleans, Little Rock, Jackson, Peachtree City, and Birmingham. A multi-agency Fire Coordination Center was established in Tallahassee to service requests from primarily federal agencies working fires in the northern part of the State. The NWS office in Tampa Bay established itself as a temporary Fire Weather Command Center to handle the multitude of requests from mainly state fire officials working wildfires in the central and eastern portions of Florida. The office also served as a coordination point for the daily telephone conferences held with NWS personnel involved in the event. Southern Region Headquarters established a 24-hour logistical and technical support service to assist field personnel.
As can be expected, initial response to an event of this magnitude creates quite a challenge to those involved. We certainly experienced some rough going as we spun up the support activities. However, once the kinks were worked out, the support provided by all personnel was nothing short of outstanding. Preliminary feedback from the land management agencies and fire officials indicate another job well done by the NWS. Our thanks are extended to each and every NWS employee involved in the process, including the forecasters, Incident Meteorologists (IMETs), MICs, ASAs, ETs.
Also, Southern Region offers its sincere appreciation to the personnel at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) who did a yeoman's job in coordinating the extensive number of IMET dispatches to Florida, and to our sister Regions, especially Western, that provided a significant amount of IMET support. IMETs from Alaska, California, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina and Oregon served on one or more of the fires.
TEXAS FIRE WEATHER SUPPORT. Now that the fire threat in Florida has temporarily abated, all eyes are focusing on severely parched areas of Texas. Record-breaking heat and drought have placed the state in extreme fire danger. The past several months, the Texas Forest Service, in cooperation with federal land management agencies and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, have been operating a Fire Operations Center in Austin. Again, the NWS has played a major role in providing weather support to fire officials across Texas. Until recently, most of the support has been geared toward the long-range. But an increasing number of wildfires are beginning to break out across many sections of the state, shifting the emphasis of the operations toward incident response.
The Southern Region has taken this opportunity to provide some initial fire weather training to forecasters at spin-up NWSOs across Texas and Louisiana. Apparently, the experience is proving beneficial. David Roth, forecaster at NWSO Lake Charles, completed a week at the Operations Center in Austin and had the following to say:
"It has been a good experience for me to do something like this. I never realized all that was involved in the fire weather program, especially since I've worked in Louisiana and Florida so far in my career. Now I feel informed and wouldn't mind doing it again, if needed to do so. After I complete the USDA hydro course, I'll most likely put in for the S290 course in fire weather.
If you ever need me to do something like this again, let me know. Thanks for letting me get involved in something like this. I think others would also learn a great deal by working in this kind of environment."
Vincent Papol, NWSO EPZ, Mark Faucette, NWSO SHV, Ken Schneider, NWSO AMA, and Robert Boyd, NWSO MAF have also completed training assignments. We will be looking for additional people to take advantage of this opportunity in the coming weeks. Chuck Maxwell, IMET at NWSO ABX, in addition to the support he provided in Florida and Georgia, served a tour of duty in the Austin Fire Operations Center in June.
Like in Florida, Texas fire agencies are singing the praises of the weather support they are receiving from the NWS. Recently, a Texas Forest Service (TFS) representative called the Southern Region Headquarters to tell of a particularly noteworthy support effort by Sharon Alden, NWSO Fairbanks, and Ken Schneider, NWSO Amarillo. It seems that fire crews working a particularly large fire received what proved to be a very accurate forecast of a significant windshift. The forecast allowed crews to mobilize accordingly and resulted in quick containment and the saving of numerous structures threatened by the fire. The TFS representative went on to say that, while this forecast alone has made the extended support effort at Austin quite cost-effective, it's just one example of the exemplary service that the NWS has been providing fire personnel from the outset.
FOR A "TIDY" BROWNSVILLE. Paul Yura, NWSO Brownsville senior forecaster, has made arrangements with the State of Texas for the office to participate in the Texas "Adopt a Highway" program. The signs went up this week showing "NWS" as having adopted a two-mile stretch of a busy road which connects northeast Brownsville, the Port of Brownsville, and South Padre Island to Hwy 77, the major road north out of the east side of the Valley. MIC Richard Hagan states "this provides a lot of visibility for the office/agency, and provides an opportunity for us to be a good community neighbor."
THE TALKING BUOY. The National Data Buoy Center has set up a system that will help mariners obtain critical weather observations. By dialing 228-688-1948, a boater can receive the latest weather conditions from any buoy or C-MAN station. The Dial-A-Buoy system provides the latest wind and wave measurements at 65 buoys and 54 C-MAN stations in both the coastal and offshore waters. Buoys report wind direction, speed, and gusts, significant wave height, swell, wind-wave heights, periods, air temperature, water temperature, and sea level pressure. Some buoys report wave direction data. C-MAN stations report wind, air temperature and pressure, and some report dew point, visibility, wave information, and water temperature. Just enter the five-digit or character code for the buoy or C-MAN desired and wait for the prompts. The NWS Coastal Water Forecast can also be accessed using the Dial-A-Buoy system. With more and more mariners using cellular phones, Dial-A-Buoy will provide useful marine weather observations and NWS forecasts 24 hours a day.
JUST IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. When traveling on business or pleasure, there may be some places that a quick visit may be educational for you and your family. Some of these places may involve the folks we deal with in our everyday jobs in the National Weather Service. The next time you're in southeast Louisiana or along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, here is an alternative to Bourbon Street, the Audubon Zoo, or the casinos. Visit the NWS The National Data Buoy Center, just across the Louisiana border at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. You can learn about the buoy program, see a buoy, touch a buoy, and learn about how the data reaches the marine forecaster's desk. Buoys are a critical part of marine forecasting for the millions of Americans who use our waters for industry and recreation. While there, get a tour of the NASA facility and see where the Space Shuttle rockets are tested.
THE FUTURE OF SPOTTER TRAINING. Over the coming year, we will see a tremendous change in the way Southern Region WCMs conduct their spotter training and preparedness presentations. SRH is moving forward with the purchase of laptop computers, graphics programs, and presentation software for developing digital presentations. Brian Peters (NWSFO Birmingham), and Gary Woodall (SRH/MSD) are working with Central Region staff on a project to digitize eight of the most-used slide sets. These will be distributed to all offices to serve as a baseline for developing training and outreach programs.
On July 11, NWSFO Norman hosted a spotter training roundtable discussion, including NWS spotter training experts and representatives from key spotter groups in the area. The discussion focused on past and present training concepts and materials. More importantly, though, we discussed future plans and methodologies for revising the baseline training materials. A concept presented at the workshop featured contacting the field offices annually for specific problem areas in the training curriculum. This input would lead to the development of approximately six "hot topics" for basic and advanced spotters. The training experts would develop modules, around 5to 12 images in length, which discuss each topic. These digital modules could be placed onto a CD-ROM or onto a server for download and use by field offices.
One lingering problem with the migration to digital format concerns the integration of videotape into the process. Even with modern compression techniques, the size of digital video files prohibits their use in all but the most powerful PCs. For the near future, our presentations will be a mixture of digital "slides" and analog videotape. However, this marks a major step in the modernization of our presentations, and we anticipate the technology allowing us to construct fully integrated, digital multimedia programs before too long.
SPOTTER/GOVERNMENT/EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SUPPORT. Southern Region offices continue to work closely with the local agencies in their CWAs. Below are some highlights:
Bobby McDaniel, MIC at NWSO Key West, received a letter of thanks from Billy Wagner, Monroe County Emergency Manager. Severe thunderstorms moved across Marathon on the Fourth of July, impacting a large fireworks display produced by the city. Thanks to frequent contacts with the NWSO staff, the Monroe County authorities were able to move spectators to safe locations before the storms struck. Good work, Key West!
NWSO Brownsville MIC Richard Hagan addressed the quarterly meeting of the Valley Chapter of the Texas Municipal League. Over 120 mayors, city council members, city managers, and other officials attended Richard's presentation. Richard described the ongoing shift from El Niño to La Niña, the severe drought in Texas, comparisons with conditions in the 1980s and 1990s, possible causes, and future impacts. Richard noted that this was the best representation of local government he had ever addressed. The presentation was well-received although the information described some potentially serious problems for the state.
WCMs Jerry Orchanian (NWSO Nashville), Brian Peters (NWSFO Birmingham), and John White (NWSFO Memphis) represented the NWS at the Tennessee Amateur Radio Meeting. Approximately 100 amateur radio operators attended, some from as far away as Ohio. During the meeting, the WCMs described the SKYWARN program, the NWS warning process, and the importance of real-time spotter reports. The meeting also gave the operators a chance to meet each other and network with the NWS representatives.
EMWIN UPDATE. The EMWIN datastream has been shifted from GOES-9 to GOES-10 to provide coverage over the western U.S. and the Pacific Ocean. The datastream continues on GOES-8 for the eastern and central parts of the country. Latest indications are that the 1200 baud signal will continue until around the end of the year. Most customers have recognized the advantages of the 9600 baud signal, but some have not yet completed the switch-over to the improved datastream.
NWSO Shreveport WCM Bruce Burkman reports significant progress in establishing EMWIN downlinks in Shreveport's CWA. Three locations have made commitments to rebroadcast the datastream. Two locations (including the Shreveport metro area) are acquiring downlinks for local receipt, and four additional areas are considering installing downlinks in their counties/parishes.
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS. As we go to press, the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season is underway with Alex moving across the central Atlantic Ocean. Southern Region offices have continued their preparedness efforts:
NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge MIC Paul Trotter participated in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Hurricane Conference. The conference was sponsored by a Biloxi/Gulfport television station. Other participants included the Mississippi Emergency Management Coordinator and representatives from the insurance industry, the Pensacola Naval Air Station, county EMCs, and the electronic and print media. Over 100 people attended the conference. Paul's presentation centered on the improvements in NWS observing and forecasting technology over the years. The conference was well received.
NWSO Corpus Christi staff participated in a two day marine/hurricane outreach program geared toward the industry and marine community in the Victoria, Texas area. The program featured visits to county EMC offices, the Coast Guard station, and eight different businesses and industrial plants in the area. The NWSO staff discussed hurricane safety plans and methods of receiving critical weather information. In addition, the staff gained a better understanding of customer needs and requirements in the Victoria area. Reaction to the outreach trip was so positive, the customers in the area have requested a full-scale weather seminar be presented to the community.
NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS
Drought Conditions Continue Across Much of Texas. Many areas across Texas continue to see much below normal rainfall. John Patton, senior service hydrologist NWSFO Austin/San Antonio, compiled some three month rainfall data for much of the state. From April 1 through June 30, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Midland, and El Paso have only measured .30 to .35 inches of rainfall. Other cities such as Del Rio and and San Antonio recorded less than 25% percent of their normal rainfall during the same three month period.
The Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles recorded June rainfall totals 3 to 4 inches below normal according to Lance Goehring, hydro focal point at Amarillo. Several locations recorded less than a half inch for the month with a few sites measuring less than .10 inches.
June rainfall totals were quite variable across San Angelo HSA. Hydro focal point Amy McCullough reported monthly rainfall totals ranged from less than a half inch to over 4 inches.
Areas of Arkansas and Louisiana Also Experiencing Moderate to Severe Drought Conditions. June rainfall totals were only 1 to 2 inches (about 50 percent of normal) across the Shreveport HSA, according to service hydrologist Craig Ross. Steve Bays, service hydrologist at Little Rock, Arkansas reports that several rivers and streams across the area are running well below normal in mean stream flows.
Just the Opposite in Tennessee. Nashville service hydrologist Mike Murphy reported June 1998 as being the wettest on record with 11.95 inches of rainfall recorded. This surpasses the previous June 1928 record of 11.64 inches. The heavy rainfall across the area brought about flash flooding of small creeks and streams as well as some river flooding. At Kingston Springs, the Harpeth River rose 12 feet in 5 hours and ended up cresting almost 12 feet above flood stage.
Rainfall was much above normal in east Tennessee as well, with a few locations 200 percent above normal. Heavy rainfall was responsible for several rock and mud slides and numerous road closures according to Brian Boyd, Knoxville/Tri-Cities service hydrologist.
NEWS FROM OUR RIVER FORECAST CENTERS
SOUTHEAST RIVER FORECAST CENTER
On the Road Again. SERFC HIC John Feldt has been "pounding the pavement" recently, in spite of an unfortunate encounter between his foot and a metal rake. We hope everything is coming along well, John, and that you are off the crutches by now. John recently met with U. S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, the NWSFO Columbia, South Carolina MIC and SH, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and he gave a presentation at the South Carolina Emergency Management Conference. All those John met with were extremely complimentary of the service and working relationship with the SERFC.
Other Planned Outreach Activities. Other outreach activities are ongoing. The SERFC staff is working with the Weather Channel to conduct hydrologic training for both their on- and off-air meteorologists. Two training sessions are planned. John will also be participating in a study sponsored by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency to address the recent Flint River flooding. The results of this study will be presented to the governor of Georgia. Excellent work on the part of you and your staff, John!
ARKANSAS RED BASIN RIVER FORECAST CENTER
Quality Control Program Completed. The ABRFC staff recently completed encoding a program which provides organized summaries of errors or discrepancies encountered in SHEF-encoded messages generated by NWS offices in the ABRFC area. The output should be a valuable tool for those who are trying to address quality control issues in their messages. Interested offices should contact ABRFC HIC Billy Olsen. Excellent work, ABRFC!
LOWER MISSISSIPPI RIVER FORECAST CENTER
LMRFC Service Hydrologist Workshop. On July 21-23, LMRFC hosted a service hydrologist workshop. Eleven service hydrologists/focal points attended the workshop to discuss AWIPS, LMRFC forecast activities, and future plans. All attendees worked the hydro desk and prepared forecasts for their hydrologic service area under the supervision of an RFC hydrologist. The meeting was a good chance to share ideas and learn more about RFC and WFO concerns.
Roll'Em. On July 17, the St. Tammany Parish Government Access Channel visited the LMRFC and NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge in Slidell to film activities at these offices. The interviews centered around NWS operations at both the WFO and RFC. A 30-minute television program will be aired in early August.
Thanks very much for your efforts, LMRFC!
TORNADO POST-ANALYSIS. Shortly after several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City on June 13, the Norman NWSFO posted a preliminary summary of the event - complete with maps and damage photos - on their Web site. Most offices are experimenting with ways to do the same, and we encourage this. Such near real-time summaries of significant events can be very helpful to the many who are interested in following up on events. It also offers a way the NWS can further share its expertise on storm analysis, as well as forecasting.
GULF COAST HURRICANE FREQUENCY. Are land-falling hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico becoming more frequent? That question is answered in a short article with a similar title that appears in the latest (July) Bulletin of the AMS. Mark Bove and others at Florida State University looked at the incidence by decades of land-falling hurricanes -- of any intensities, and just intense (Category 3+) storms -- and determined that, if anything, the frequency of hurricane strikes along the Gulf Coast has decreased steadily since the 1960s. Note that they looked at the entire coastline, from Cape Sable to Brownsville, so these results should be applied with caution for specific segments of the coast.
LOCAL STUDIES ONLINE. NWSFO Birmingham has posted three significant local studies to their Web site:
Comparison of VIL, rotational velocity, and storm top in two tornadic supercells, by Bob Kilduff.
Analysis and comments on a March 1998 wedge event, by Mark Rose.
The Alabama gravity wave event of February 22, 1998: A classic mesoscale forecasting challenge, by Tom Bradshaw, Ron Murphy, and Kevin Pence.
SAN ANGELO KUDOS. The Abilene Chapter of the National Weather Association recently thanked MIC Shirley Matejka and her entire staff for their cooperation in hosting an NWA visit to NWSO San Angelo. As noted by NWA Chapter president Jim Walters:
Some of our members are amateur radio operators, firefighters, and storm spotters, so the information gained is multiplied many times over as it integrates into our community emergency response network. The San Angelo team not only promotes greater public awareness of the serious side of Big Bend weather, but [it] fosters a spirit of cooperation and appreciation between communities that will open the door to better communication during regional emergencies.
We couldn't have said it better, Shirley. Well done.
BROWNSVILLE MODELING WORKSHOP. A mini-mesoscale modeling workshop was held at NWSO Brownsville in July, for the benefit of the staff and visiting forecasters from NWSO Corpus Christi. Bernard Meisner (SRH/SSD) outlined recent and imminent changes to the NCEP operational modeling suite, most importantly the continued increase in model resolution. Following that, John Snook (NOAA/Forecast Systems Laboratory) discussed the feasibility of operational local area modeling at NWS offices. He outlined the theory of local models and their role in the modernized weather service, including their use for case studies and research. John also discussed FSL's work with the Local Analysis and Prediction System (LAPS), which will be included in AWIPS, as well as being a critical component in initializing local area models.
Brownsville SOO Mark Jackson concluded the workshop by summarizing local research at the NWSO using the RAMS numerical model, including extensive work with the model to investigate the sea breeze in deep south Texas. John Snook and Bernard continued their visit to the office the following day, allowing Bernard to continue informal discussions with office staff before traveling to NWSO Corpus Christi in the afternoon. Meanwhile, John installed a workstation version of the Eta model and upgraded the RAMS model on Brownsville's SAC (HP-715).
Another goal of the Brownsville meeting was to further plans for a research/operational version of RAMS to be run at SRH, employing a grid covering southern Texas and western Louisiana. Model output would be available via the regional server. Used in the research/diagnostic mode, we envision scheduling time "on the model" similar to how astronomers schedule time on large telescopes.
NEW TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM. NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-198, A Meteorological and Radar Analysis of the Central Texas Tornado Outbreak on May 27, 1997, has been distributed to all offices. NWSFO Austin/San Antonio staff members Carl Morgan (now Memphis), Jeff Orrock, Nezette Rydell, and Jimmy Don Ward authored the paper. This is the outbreak which included the F4 Jarrell tornado.
DRAFT DACFO REPORT ONLINE. To encourage maximum communication between NWS Headquarters and the field offices, the 1998 draft report of the Directors Advisory Committee on Forecast Operations (DACFO) has been posted to the DACFO home page. The URL is: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/dacfo/.
The report will be updated until all the responses are complete, at which time the report will be finalized. As changes are made to the report they will be noted on the home page. Since the DACFO report is an internal NWS document, the DACFO home page is not linked to any other home pages, and NWSH requests that it not be linked to any home pages. Questions about the report, or the DACFO process may be directed to Chuck Kluepfel at NWSH (Office of Meteorology) or to the Southern Region and National DACFO chairperson, Nezette Rydell, at NWSFO Austin/San Antonio.
NEW COMET CASE STUDY. COMET has announced the availability of a new case study, including data from the rainstorm which flooded Fort Collins, Colorado, one year ago on July 28-29, 1997. Backbuilding echoes increased the duration of rainfall, and the intense rain rates combined with urban runoff complexities resulted in an extreme hydrologic response. The case was presented during a recent COMET Hydromet course and was developed in collaboration with Matt Kelsch, NOAA/FSL. Included are GOES-8 and GOES-9 imagery, radar data from Denver and Cheyenne, NOWRAD composite radar imagery from WSI, surface and upper air data, NCEP model data and text products from NWS offices.
For a detailed description of this case study (011), as well as a lab exercise and other training support documentation, see http://www.comet.ucar.edu/resources/cases/c11_28jul97/. Additional information about ordering this (and other) case studies can be obtained from SSD or the following:
COMET is interested in developing additional cases, or adding to the studies already developed. If offices have exercises or other data to share, please contact one of the above sites. Finally, preliminary case studies can be seen at:
TROPICAL WORKSHOP AT NEW ORLEANS. Jiann-gwo Jiing (SOO at the NHC/Tropical Prediction Center) visited NWSFO/RFC New Orleans on July 23 to present a tropical forecasting seminar. He discussed the strengths, weaknesses, and verification statistics of TPC tropical cyclone models, and he presented results of recent research which showed mean monthly 200 mb flow patterns over the tropics during active versus inactive hurricane seasons. He also discussed basic tropical analysis techniques used at the TPC. Participants in the workshop included LMRFC and NWSFO staff (including retired former MIC Billy Crouch), visiting forecasters from NWSFO Jackson and NWSO Lake Charles, and the Louisiana State Climatologist from LSU.
WEATHER BUREAU TOPICS. Probably few realize that the Southern Region Topics has its roots in Weather Bureau Topics and Personnel, a monthly publication that began in the early days of the Bureau. Anyone who thinks issues and problems related to budgets, modernization, new technology, training, professionalism, grades and pay levels, and so on are new has only to peruse some of the old Topics to learn otherwise. For example:
From June 1936 -
Long-distance Telephone Calls. Long-distance calls may be made only when the nature of the business to be transacted is urgent, can not be adequately transacted by mail or telegraph, or is of such a character as to require personal contact. Within these limitations... toll charges in excess of 50 cents for long-distance calls on official business will be allowed only when a certificate is furnished [to WB Central Office], showing-
3. Name of person making call.
4. Name of party to whom communication was held.
5. Points between which service was rendered.
6. Date of call.
7. Number of minutes.
8. Charge as to initial period, additional minutes and total.
9. Type of call (station-to-station, reverse charges, etc.).
10. Statement that the call was on official business.
NCDC CD-ROMS. The National Climatic Data Center is developing a Climate Extremes CD-ROM that allows the user to choose a climate station in the continental United States and calculate probabilities, based on the current climate, of having any number of days in a given month over or under a specified temperature threshold (e.g., the probabilities of having 1, 2, 3,... 31 days over 100F at Fort Worth in July). In addition, the user can specify a change in various aspects of the temperature statistics, including changing the average temperature for the month, and see how the probabilities change. As of this writing the CD-ROM has yet to go to press. Once it is finalized, Vice President Gore is scheduled to announce its availability, and copies will be supplied to all our offices.
NCDC is also completing work on the update to the Radiosonde Data of North America CD-ROM data set. The updated Volume IV, scheduled for release in August, will include data from 1990-1997. We'll be supplying copies of this update to all our offices.
TELETRAINING. Bernard Meisner provided over two dozen offices with two teletraining lessons on hurricane guidance models used by the National Hurricane Center. The first week his sessions featured the track guidance models; the second week featured the intensity guidance models and SLOSH. A total of 23 Southern Region offices, Eastern Region Headquarters and a few folks from the Virtual Institute for Satellite Integration Training (VISIT), participated in these sessions. NWSFO San Juan incorporated the teletraining into their 4th Annual Hurricane Workshop.
In mid-August, Brian Motta (VISIT), will present three teletraining sessions for about a half-dozen offices each on "Detecting Low-Level Thunderstorm Outflow Boundaries at Night Using GOES Imagery. NWSO Lake Charles and NWSO Tulsa assisted VISIT as beta testers of this teletraining module in July.
AUTOESTIMATOR TEST. The Satellite Analysis Branch of NESDIS is running a 4-week test of the Auto-Estimator. Five RAMSDIS sites in the region are participating in the test. The Auto-Estimator will provide precipitation estimates using satellite imagery and will make the graphic product available at the RAMSDIS console. The goal is for this product to replace, and improve upon, the time-intensive effort of producing the Interactive Flash Flood Analyzer (IFFA). Hopefully, the new product would be of some use to forecasters and hydrologists in the Region. The test is scheduled to begin August 5 and run through September 4.
SAVINGS BOND DRIVE CONCLUDES. The National Weather Service Savings Bond Campaign concluded July 31. Thanks to all who helped to get the word out to our personnel.
RAPID RESPONSE TO LOSS OF PUERTO RICO WSR-88D PRODUCTS. The Puerto Rico Telephone Company strike resulted in a loss of WSR-88D data to internal and external users, including the National Hurricane Center, the U.S. Naval Station at Roosevelt Roads, the Southeast River Forecast Center, the OSF and the NIDS vendors. Fortunately, a microwave link installed this winter by the FAA continued to provide data to NWSFO San Juan.
A team consisting of FAA, Eastern and Southern Region SOD, and the NWSFO staff was quickly assembled during the week of July 13th to install a Weather Ingestion and Distribution System (WIDS) at the San Juan office. The WIDS, developed at the FAA's Technical Center in Atlantic City, consists of a PC, interface card and appropriate software. The system has been installed for testing at some sites in the Eastern Region. Radar products flowing to the NWSFO San Juan PUP can now be accessed locally by the Navy via the WIDS PC, and are sent over the regional Frame Relay network to a server at SRH, where they can be retrieved by mainland users.
The response to this critical operational problem was superb. With the Atlantic hurricane season upon us, any loss of radar image distribution capability could have been disastrous. The demonstrated innovation, cooperation, and quick action of ERH, FAA TC, SRH/SOD and NWSFO San Juan staff was exemplary. Thanks to everyone involved for a job very well done.
AFTER CC:MAIL. On July 9, Marc Burling, an RDC contractor for NWS, and Charlie Ratcliff, the new information technology coordinator with NWS (MB33), visited with Leon Minton to discuss the needs of the Southern Region concerning the next e:mail system. They plan to visit each of the regions to get a field perspective on what is required. This is a welcome approach.
The bottom line is that the next system needs to be easy to integrate into our existing LAN/WAN infrastructure must be, easy to administer and support, and it needs to meet the latest standards for e:mail and Internet connectivity. When a time frame was discussed, Marc and Charlie felt that early 1999 (perhaps as early as January) would be desirable. One incentive to a new e:mail system, according to Marc and Charlie, is that our current Lotus cc:Mail system is not Y2K compliant!
REGIONS HELPING REGIONS. As this is written, Leon Minton is traveling to the Pacific Region to assist in upgrading their LAN Servers and cc:Mail Post Offices. This will involve the Pacific Region Headquarters and the NWSFO in Honolulu and the NWSO in Guam. When finished, the cc:Mail will be running on the latest Release 8.11 software. Hopes are to implement the cc:Web services that have proven useful in the Southern Region over the last several months. The plan is to accomplish all the work in about seven very busy working days, so Leon can forget about taking any sunscreen on this trip.
IS YOUR GOVERNMENT CELL PHONE Y2K COMPLIANT? Cellular telephones that are serviced under the GTE Federal Wireless Telecommunications Services(FWTS) GSA contract are Y2K compliant. However, there may be a few older phones in use that are not. Please contact your local vendor as soon as possible to determine if your cell phone is Y2K compliant. If you have a cellular telephone that is not compliant please contact the SRH Telecommunications Manager, Gene Witsman at (817) 978-2367, ext. 129.
STATUS OF MCI BILLING. The attached letter from GSA, Federal Technology Service in Fort Worth discusses the current status of the MCI charges for FCC-approved fees (National Access Fee and the Federal Universal Service Fee). This information applies only to those offices which are provided telephone service from a GSA Centrex/Plexar like service.
Your next MCI bill should reflect the rate correction and subsequent refund/credit to your MCI billing.
S.T.A.R. PROGRAM. On May 12, 1998, I (Joe Villescaz) reported to Southern Region Headquarters to participate in the S.T.A.R. program. While in the program, I have gained invaluable upper-level management experience working closely with the Region's Systems Integration Branch Chief, the electronics program manager, and the Regional Systems Specialists. During June, the electronics program manager, Martin Garcia, and I traveled to Weather Service Headquarters. The purpose of the visit was to discuss and review the staffing of electronics technicians in the Southern Region. Prior to making the visit to WSH, I was tasked to assist in gathering information in the area of property inventory from all of the offices in the Region. This, along with EMRS information, was the criterion used during the meeting. While at WSH, we met with budget and finance managers from OSO. The meeting was very informative and worthwhile.
We returned to SRH just in time to assist in the local installation and implementation of AWIPS. The PRC installation team recognized and applauded the successful installation, attributed to the preconstruction and site prep action performed by on-site personnel beforehand. Sector facilities technicians Al Ruffin and Don Allen, along with everyone else who lent a supporting hand, did an excellent job of preparing SRH for the successful outcome.
Another event that kept us busy in SOD was the installation of the new Local Area Network (LAN) at SRH. Due to the short time frame with which local personnel had to work, the decision was made to perform the work ourselves. The scope of work involved the installation of over seventy high speed LAN connections throughout the entire tenth floor and the rerouting of associated cabling to the equipment and communications room. With everyone's collective efforts, the task was completed ahead of schedule and at a substantial savings to the government.
July brought many challenges. During the week of July 13-17, Western Region Headquarters hosted an EMRS conference. The Region's electronics program manager, Martin Garcia, and EMRS focal point, Heiko Crowe attended the conference and presented issues which I had received from technicians in the Southern Region. The items mentioned, such as off-line EMRS reporting and the improvements of a speedier operating system, were discussed and are being given serious consideration.
While Martin and Heiko were at the conference, mother nature was doling out severe weather in the Southeast. Lightning damaged equipment and briefly hampered operations at the Tallahassee Weather Office. Cecil Tevis, radar focal point, and I assisted on-site personnel at the Tallahassee office in bringing the upper air equipment back to normal operation in a timely manner. Kudos goes out to the ESA, Ken Morris and electronics technician, Mike Hughes, for going above and beyond the call of duty, for working so diligently and for possessing the "Can't Quit" attitude!! Super job, Ken and Mike!!
In closing, I would first like to say "Thank You" to all of the people at SRH for making me feel so welcome. Second, I would like to mention that the time I spent in the S.T.A.R. program has been a very enlightening and enriching experience! I would certainly recommend to everyone that, if the opportunity should exist for you to participate in the S.T.A.R program in the future, by all means, please do so! And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank my ESA, fellow technicians, and everyone else at the Austin/San Antonio Weather Office for allowing me the opportunity and the time to participate in the S.T.A.R program. Thanks everyone!
ASOS. The following papers were presented at the AMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix last January, and they are available on the NWSH Web site:
ASOS Program Update, by Vickie L. Nadolski. This paper gives some background on the ASOS Program and discusses challenges an automated system presents to the NWS and the FAA. It also describes current system enhancement efforts (sunshine, ice-free wind, relative humidity, enhanced precipitation identification, 25K ceilometer, and all-weather precipitation). Find it at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/asos/amsvn98.htm..
Comparison of ASOS and Observer Ceiling-Height and Visibility Values, by Allan C. Ramsay. ASOS has been criticized by some members of the aviation community for failing to provide representative reports of ceiling heights and visibilities, which are important for flight operations. A joint NWS and FAA data collection effort in 1995 provided a unique data set of over 10,000 hours of coincident ASOS and observer reports of these parameters. This paper provides insight on the comparability of automated and manual observations, with special emphasis on differences in reports at the thresholds of 1000 ft for ceiling and three miles for visibility, which define the breakpoint between IFR and MVFR conditions. It's at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/asos/amscom.htm.
DIVERSITY/EEO AND COMMUNITY OUTREACH ACTIVITIES
NWSFO FORT WORTH. This past spring, a number of forecasters, and especially Jeff Raberding, were mentors to elementary school student Katie Wheeler. On June 27, in the "Cheers and Jeers" section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the following was written:
Cheers: To Jeff Raberding and the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Fort Worth for participating in my school's mentor program. Raberding was a great mentor and helped me learn more about meteorology. Thank you.
J.T. Stevens Elementary School
Great job, Jeff!
NWSFO SHREVEPORT. Meteorologists Bill Parker and Donovan Landreneau gave a talk at a Safety Fair at Schumpert Hospital in Shreveport. They discussed the NOAA Weather Radio, and gave safety and preparedness tips for tornadoes, winter weather, hurricanes, heat waves, and flash floods.
Steve Griffin, HMT, and Timothy Doyle, meteorologist, gave a tour to the Salvation Army Summer Kids program where 95 percent were African-American.
Bill Parker also gave a career talk at Carlos Spaght, a Louisiana prep school where over 50 percent were minorities. Bill also gave a talk to the Latourneau University Summer Youth program in Longview, Texas, on the operations of the NWS and modernization.
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