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Fort Worth, Texas

February 1, 1997



The Latest News. NWSH continues to work with Congress, NOAA, and the Department of Commerce to get a deployment decision. We should have some news in the next few weeks.

The Rumor Mill. Rumors have been circulated through the NWS that the PRC will come into an office and dictate where the equipment will be placed; and, once it has been installed, it will have to remain in place for several years. These rumors are false! Each office has the responsibility to identify where their AWIPS equipment will be installed. Enough cabling will be provided to insure that you have the flexibility to relocate AWIPS to another position within the operations area when AFOS and the other systems are decommissioned and removed. Even when you initially decide where the equipment will be placed, you have an opportunity to make changes when you receive the site survey.

AWIPS Build 2. Release of 2.0 is expected to be complete by the end of March. It will contain upgrades to the HP-UNIX Operating System and the Informix Database, initial implementation of the X.400 Message Handling System; upgrades to other commercial-off-the-shelf software; and automated failover from processor to backup. Point releases for Build 2 will contain limited user capabilities for the Message Handling System (i.e., administrative messages), the satellite-derived fog product, and the Interactive Computer Worded Forecast/LAMP at selected sites (Tulsa is one!), among other things.

AWIPS Build 3. Work is still focused on the integration of WFO-Advanced and AWIPS for Build 3. The functionality of AWIPS at Build 3 will include acquire GOES data, model grids, and text products from the SBN; acquire WSR-88D RPG data via a synchronous communications interface; store and manage data; process, display, and animate data; create official text products through the AFOS communications network; and interface with AWIPS remote monitoring and control. Implementation of Build 3 is still expected for this fall.


SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS WEEKS SET. The tornado and severe thunderstorm outbreaks of the past few weeks have served as a reminder that the main impact of severe weather season is not far away. Southern Region offices have completed preparations for their 1997 statewide severe weather awareness weeks. The entire schedule is shown below:

        State		    	Week
Alabama February 23 - March 1
Arkansas March 2 - 8
Florida February 23 - March 1
Georgia February 23 - March 1
Louisiana March 2 - 8
Mississippi February 23 - March 1
New Mexico March 2 - 8
Oklahoma March 2 - 8
Tennessee March 2 - 8
Texas March 2 - 8

We would like to congratulate our offices for their coordination in arranging these weeks.

TAMPA TRAINING. The staff at NWSO Tampa Bay has been active regarding both internal and external training over recent weeks. A basic spotter training session was conducted at the American Red Cross facility in downtown Tampa for 25 Red Cross volunteers from Hillsboro, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties. The training session featured an in-depth slide and video presentation accompanied by a variety of brochures and handouts for the trainees.

In addition, Walt Zaleski (WCM, NWSO Tampa Bay) provided the NWSO staff with a seminar on how to conduct a damage survey. The seminar included overviews on data gathering, media relations, and meteorological considerations. Walt also presented information concerning wind engineering and the conducting of storm victim interviews. The seminar also included examples from the Riverview, Florida, tornado of December 1996.

MEMPHIS SEVERE WEATHER GUIDE. John White and Richard Smith at NWSFO Memphis prepared a detailed SKYWARN spotter's guide for the Memphis-area spotters. The guide includes important names, phone numbers, and Internet addresses, along with severe weather reporting criteria. A review of severe weather climatology and significant tornado events for the area is also included. The guide also contains excerpts from Mike Branick's Severe Weather Glossary and an overview of communications methods (NWR, amateur radio, etc.) used in the Memphis area.

MELBOURNE SPOTTER NETS. Bob Drummond (HMT, NWSO Melbourne) has developed a program for increasing the number of "point" (stationary) spotters in the Melbourne CWA. Bob submitted articles to local county and city newspapers to recruit spotters in the more sparsely-populated areas. Interested people were asked to write the NWSO, after which Bob followed up with a personal contact. So far, the project has resulted in about 20 new point spotters per county. Bob reported that the spotters range from a 16-year-old student to a former B-29 pilot, and that the project should be completed for the entire CWA in the near future.

SAME RECEIVERS IN LUBBOCK. Larry Vannozzi, Greg Shelton, and Jody James of NWSFO Lubbock distributed nine NWR SAME decoders to various groups in the Lubbock NWR listening area. The groups include school teachers and administrators, emergency management agencies, a local radio station, and a petroleum company's operations unit. The goals of the project are to receive feedback regarding the SAME decoding feature and to allow these groups to critique the NWR service. The Lubbock staff developed a survey form that each group will complete monthly and an additional form to be completed after significant events. Larry reported that the staff hopes to continue the project through the 1997 severe weather season.

DENSE FOG MEETING. In the aftermath of the recent chain-reaction vehicle accident near New Orleans, Paul Trotter and Frank Revitte of NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge participated in a meeting concerning dense fog and its impact on vehicle traffic. Several locations in the New Orleans area have experienced major traffic accidents involving 25 to 100 vehicles during the past ten years. Paul and Frank gave a briefing on how the NWSFO conveys information regarding dense fog. Transportation Department and other officials discussed various methods to reduce the impact of dense fog, including remote visibility sensors, variable message highway signs, and increased lighting in dense fog areas.

RADIOFAX CHARTS NOW AVAILABLE VIA E-MAIL. National Weather Service radiofax charts broadcast by the United States Coast Guard from Boston, New Orleans, and Pt. Reyes, California, are now available via E-mail. It is anticipated that the service will include marine text products in the near future. This FTPMAIL server is intended to allow Internet access for mariners who do not have direct access to the World Wide Web but who are equipped with an E-mail system. Using FTPMAIL, users can request files from NWS and have them automatically E-mailed back to them. Turnaround time is generally under three hours; however, performance may vary widely and receipt cannot be guaranteed. To get started using the FTPMAIL service, follow these simple instructions to obtain the FTPMAIL "HELP" file:

Send an E-mail to:
Subject line: Put anything you want
Body: help

Direct any questions on the FTPMAIL service to:		301-713-1677 x 128 or	301-713-0882 x 122

An html link to this information is available on the Southern Region home page at

BOAT SHOW. The Houston Boat Show ran from January 3-12 with approximately 284,000 people attending. NWSO Houston was able to provide important information while meeting boaters. Over 3,500 brochures were handed out. Numerous questions about hurricanes, tornadoes, and other severe weather, marine weather, and NWS products were answered by staff member volunteers.

Popular handouts included brochures on hurricanes, safe boating tips, marine weather services, and tide tables. Several boaters expressed their interest in becoming volunteer marine weather spotters.

This event was coordinated by Robert Van Hoven, NWSO Houston's Marine Focal Point. Staff support was outstanding. Tom Fountain and Jim Maxwell helped in the set-up and dismantling of the NWS display.

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA PROGRAM. This is a unique program designed to give teachers of any grade and any subject the opportunity to participate in research activities aboard a NOAA vessel. This program has been very successful over the past years with 180 teachers having already participated in it. You may contact Judy Sohl at (206) 553-2633 for more information, or look at the SRH Marine homepage at

POSTFLIGHT MISSION SUMMARY FOR STS-80. The Space Shuttle Columbia touched down at the NASA Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) in Florida on December 7 at 1149 UTC. This marked another record for mission duration in the Shuttle program. From launch to wheel stop on landing, the mission lasted 17 days 15 hours 54 minutes. Weather was a primary factor in delaying the landing until the third landing day.

Columbia lifted on STS-80 on November 19 at 1956 UTC from the Kennedy Space Center. Launch had been scheduled for November 14, but forecasts of unacceptable weather on launch day and scheduling conflicts with the planned Atlas rocket launch caused NASA mission managers to reschedule the launch day to the 19th. Weather was a primary reason for choosing November 19 as the launch date. Launch weather was GO as well as weather at the potential abort landing sites in the U.S. and at the Transoceanic Abort Landing sites in Spain and Morocco, with the exception of Moron where cloud ceilings were below limits.

Forecasting the weather for landing proved to be a challenging task. The weather forecast remained GO up until moments before the de-orbit burn. Surface weather observations received via digital voice and telephone communications, along with Doppler radar detection of clouds, led SMG forecasters to amend the landing weather forecast to NO GO just minutes from the de-orbit burn based upon a threat of a low cloud ceiling. The NASA Flight Director at the Mission Control Center decided to "waive-off" Columbia for another landing attempt approximately one hour later. Reconnaissance reports from the astronaut-piloted Shuttle Training aircraft flying around the SLF also noted an increase in low level clouds. A cloud ceiling was subsequently observed at the SLF at just seven minutes after the possible de-orbit burn time. Surrounding surface weather observations and extrapolation of low cloud trends available on the first few visible images from the GOES-8 geosynchronous weather satellite raised the possibility of low cloud ceilings for the second landing opportunity. The NASA Flight Director at the Johnson Space Center again decided to waive off this time until the following day.

Weather forced another day in orbit for the crew of Columbia on December 6. Fog was forecast to envelop the SLF for the first landing opportunity near sunrise. Visibility in fog at the SLF dropped to mile at what would have been the first landing opportunity. Some hope remained that fog would clear off in time for the second landing opportunity at the SLF. Weather was observed NO GO at the de-orbit time, so Columbia was again waived off. The fog cleared off only 29 minutes after the second landing opportunity at KSC. High winds and turbulence were forecast at Edwards Air Force Base, both at the surface and aloft, so the NASA Flight Director waived the Shuttle off until the following day.

Weather at KSC for the December 7 landing initially looked to be problematic. Winds at Edwards Air Force Base were, however, expected to be lighter than on December 6 and within Flight Rule limits. Fog was again anticipated for the first landing opportunity just minutes before sunrise with low cloud ceilings and showers possible for the second opportunity for a Florida landing. Data from the instrumented 500-foot tower, the KSC area wind tower network, rawinsondes, and cloud cover observed on satellite imagery led to SMG's decision to remove the potential for fog and stratus from the landing weather forecast. Finally, satellite imagery, pilot reports, and lightning strike location reports were consulted to ascertain the age and opacity of a detached thunderstorm anvil which was moving in from the Gulf of Mexico into central Florida. Flight Rules require that optically opaque detached anvils less than three hours old be avoided by 20 miles to mitigate the risk of triggered lightning. Columbia and its record-setting crew touched down on the first landing opportunity of the day at 1149 UTC marking the completion of the 80th Space Shuttle mission.

Tim Garner was lead forecaster for the ascent and entry phases of STS-80. The assistant lead/TAL site forecaster was Karl Silverman. Cara Heist and Tim Oram acted as lead Techniques Development Unit meteorologists.

The SMG Web Page can be accessed at

HOUSTON CWSU POC. The FAA is planning to conduct a six-month "Proof of Concept" (POC) exercise at the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC). The exercise will test the concept of using FAA En Route Flight Advisory Service (EFAS) specialists to provide meteorological service to traffic managers and controllers and is scheduled to begin in mid-February. Presently, the participating EFAS specialists are receiving enhanced weather hazard training at California State University under the direction of Dr. Peter Lester. The course, which began January 6, 1997, is expected to continue until January 28.

It is unclear at this time what the NWS's role, if any, will be regarding "on-the-job-training" of the EFAS specialists and the various operational activities associated with the exercise.

Negotiations are currently under way with the FAA to look at additional operational scenarios involving the CWSU. Most notably, the NWS would like to test an enhanced CWSU concept consisting of a cooperative mix of NWS meteorologists and EFAS specialists. No word yet on if and when such a test will be conducted.

INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT DOCUMENTATION. The final Request for Proposals (RFP) phase of contracting the international flight documentation (flight folder) service has been completed. Of the 43 vendors that received the RFP, two submitted proposals.

The NWS is planning to organize a team of evaluators, including several field people, to review the proposals. The team is scheduled to begin the evaluation process at NWS Headquarters the week of February 10. Israel Matos, MIC at NWSFO San Juan, will represent the Southern Region on the team. Israel and his staff have extensive experience in preparing flight folders. He will undoubtedly provide a great deal of insight and expertise to the team.

If all goes well, perhaps a contract can be awarded by summer with service implementation a month or two later.

ATUS. Frustrations regarding the restructuring of the national Transcribed Weather Broadcast (TWEB) route system continue to run high. However, the latest word from NWS Headquarters is that the FAA may be placing a higher priority on getting the system finalized.

As you are aware, MSD has been purposely holding off the transfer of the routes to the spin-up NWSOs until the new route structure is finalized and approved. With the elimination of a number of regional routes expected, we did not want to involve the offices in training to take over this function for what was expected to be a short time. We appreciate everyone's patience as we attempt to bring this issue to closure.

ASOS SCP FIX. The Satellite Cloud Product (SCP) generated by sounder data from the GOES-8 and 9 spacecraft to complement the ASOS observations is known to produce erroneous cloud reports under certain atmospheric conditions. For example, when the lower layers of the atmosphere are cold and a strong surface-based inversion is in place, the SCP frequently reports false clouds (broken or overcast) when the skies are, in fact, clear.

A number of people have been involved in devising a scientific fix to this problem. Recently, a software upgrade to handle this problem was tested in the field. While several instances of false reports still occurred, all agreed that the fix was an improvement. Work is continuing on the problem.

SEVERE WEATHER/FIRST TORNADO FATALITY IN 1997. Severe, pre-frontal thunderstorms brought heavy rains, large hail, high winds, and tornadoes Friday afternoon and evening, January 24. Damage was widespread mostly east of the Mississippi River, but the areas suffering the worst consequences were central Tennessee and Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In Murfreesboro, Tennessee (about 30 miles southeast of Nashville; in Rutherford County), a tornado (max strength F4, max width 300 yards, path length 6.5 miles) struck around 5:00 p.m., injuring 18 people and damaging 141 structures. A Tornado Watch was in effect. A Tornado Warning issued by NWSO Nashville had been in effect for 38 minutes.

Also around 5:00 p.m., a tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama. A limb from an uprooted tree smashed through a truck windshield, killing the 71-year-old driver. Damage was also done to around 100 structures. A Tornado Watch was in effect. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning from NWSFO Birmingham had been in effect for 37 minutes. A Tornado Warning was issued at 5:11 p.m. based on a "TVS" and report of a tornado at 5:10 p.m. This event added yet another distinction to Alabama's weather history. It was the first recorded tornado-related fatality in the U.S. in 1997. Mother Nature seems to have her sights on Alabama: (1) in 1994, Alabama led the country with 22 tornado deaths (all with the Palm Sunday tornado on March 27); (2) in 1995, the state led the nation for the second year in a row with seven tornado deaths; and (3) in 1996, Alabama's seven tornado deaths were the second highest in the country. Since 1950, Alabama has recorded 59 January tornadoes.



Dry Year in South Texas. Hydrologic Focal point for NWSO Brownsville, Freddy Vega, reports that Brownsville received 28.71 inches of rain in 1996. This is 108 per cent of normal. If you have been following our hydrologic updates and drought information during the past year, you are probably surprised at this "normal" rainfall figure. It turns out, though, that nearly 90 per cent of Brownsville's rain fell during August (5.77 inches), September (8.57 inches), and October (11.49 inches). Other deep South Texas locations were not so lucky. McAllen received only 50 per cent of their annual normal rainfall, Hebbronville 51 per cent of normal, and Rio Grande City registered a bone dry 9.39 inches of rain for the year--just 42 per cent of normal annual rainfall.

Mucho Moisture in Memphis. On the other hand, Buzz Merchlewitz (service hydrologist, NWSFO in Memphis) reveals that the Memphis airport registered their second wettest year of record (dating back to 1872). The 1996 rainfall total amounted to 76.0 inches. This was just shy of the all-time record of 76.85 inches and almost 50 per cent greater than the annual normal of 52.1 inches.

Mighty Mississippi Running High. In Southern Louisiana, NWSFO New Orleans senior service hydrologist Dave Smith says that the average December 1996 stage of the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge was 15.1 feet above the mean December stage of 14.5 feet. At New Orleans, the mean December stage of 5.5 feet was exceeded by 6 feet as the river rose from 9.4 feet on December 1 to 12 feet on December 31.

Rising Waters in the Lake Charles HSA. Ray Sondag (hydrologic focal point, NWSO Lake Charles) reports that heavy rains in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas resulted in dramatic rises on rivers and bayous during December. In Louisiana, the Bayou Nezpique at Basile rose from 3.3 feet on the 15th to 16.59 feet on the 19th, while the Calcasieu River at Kinder rose from 2.85 feet to 11.2 feet during the same period. Village Creek at Kountze, Texas, rose from 4.21 feet on the 14th to 13.29 feet on the 21st.


Birmingham Business. Senior service hydrologist at NWSFO Birmingham, Roger McNeil, continued his station's HMT and met intern hydrologic training program during December. This program emphasizes routine daily data collection and dissemination procedures. Roger reports also that four C++ programs became operational at the NWSFO so that the four data collection and dissemination programs are now generated by computer. Roger, Tom Bradshaw, and Mark Linhares continued their work on site surveys designed to update flood stage information on existing E-19s.

Traveling with Tommy. Tom Thompson (senior service hydrologist, NWSFO Jackson) traveled to E-19 sites in Chunky, Shubuta, Enterprise, and Meridian, Mississippi, to update information contained in those reports. Forecaster Brad Regan assisted on these trips.

Tallahassee Tours. Early in December, NWSO Tallahassee senior service hydrologist Bob Carle took Suwannee River Water Management hydrologist Tom Mirti to the SERFC to familiarize Mr. Mirti with RFC operations. They also spoke about data collection, river forecasts, and automation plans for the Suwannee River. While in Atlanta, the two made a coordination trip to the USGS office. Later in the month, Bob met USGS employee Leroy Pearman at Ariton, Alabama. The two completed the installation of automated equipment on the Ariton gage. The site now provides hourly stage readings and rainfall data to the SERFC.

Keeping Busy in Memphis. On December 12, Buzz Merchlewitz and DAPM Jack Jackson traveled to the Columbus, Mississippi, cooperative station to assist with its repair and relocation. They also visited river gages at Luxapallila Creek at Columbus and the Tombigbee River at Amory, Mississippi. Later in the month, Buzz surveyed flooding near river gages at Riverdale, Lake City, Palestine and Madison, Arkansas. Back in the office, Buzz completed his back-up hydrologic manuals for Little Rock and Nashville.

Cross Training in Tulsa. NWSO Tulsa service hydrologist Al Hong was the first Tulsa staffer to cross train at the ABRFC. Here are some of his comments on his week of training:

Although there was no flooding during my first two days of training, I was surprised by the tedious amount of quality control work which still had to be done. For instance, on the first day, there was plenty of melting snow which resulted in erroneous gage reports. There was also falling snow which needed to be added to the radar-derived precipitation products. I saw some techniques used by the HAS forecaster to adjust precipitation, and observed how the local QPFs were mosaicked.

During the last three days of the week, I worked with the FICs on duty (James Paul and Phil Weigant). There was no flooding during those days, but there was still more quality control to be done--this time of the river stages. For instance, after the model run, we still had to fine tune many of the forecasts prior to transmission. I was impressed with the numerous modification techniques available. On my second day with James Paul, he helped me make the forecast modifications myself, and allowed me to issue the final product.

This cross-training is planned or occurring at several of our Southern Region collocated WFO/RFC operations. This is a great way for hydrologists and meteorologists to learn more about each other's disciplines leading to a greater understanding of how cooperative efforts between the two result in better hydrologic services for our customers.


LMRFC Coordination with Service Hydrologists. On January 14, LMRFC hydrologists Ethan Jolly and Janet Spurgeon and cooperative student Keith Stellman visited river and raingage sites in southern Mississippi with NWSFO New Orleans' Dave Smith. On January 27, LMRFC's hydrologists Randy Rieman and E.J. Leche met with NWSFO Jackson's Tommy Thompson at the Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Civil Defense Office. The meeting was held to coordinate activities for the NWS to obtain data from the Hattiesburg ALERT system.

ABRFC Takin' it to the Streets. In January, senior HAS forecaster Suzanne Fortin of the ABRFC traveled to NWSO Wichita to brief and help train their staff on HAS and RFC operations. Her trip was also intended to help explain the upcoming test of the "with and without QPF" project ABRFC will begin in February. Apparently, Suzanne made quite an impression. What follows are excerpts from a thank you written by NWSO Wichita MIC Dick Elder to ABRFC HIC Billy Olsen:

Wanted to personally thank you for allowing Ms. Fortin to come up to Wichita and give us a seminar on the HAS hydrometeorologist position and QPF. Her presentation was very informative and all found benefit in it. We also taped it so that others who were not able to attend could watch her presentation.

We certainly appreciate your dedication to providing the best customer service you can to us the "Customer." Having Suzanne here was just another example of your dedication to ensuring we are all on the same page with regard to your operation and how it can assist us.

Again, thank you very much for freeing her up to come visit us.

We very much appreciate the service you provide. Please pass that on to your entire staff.

Suzanne is one of several ABRFC staff members who have "taken it to the streets" in recent months in an effort to better educate their customers and market their services. Keep up the great work!


PC-NOW UPDATE. Scott Plischke, Jeff Colton, and the staff at NWSO Amarillo have put together a summary of changes that need to be made to adjust the PC-NOW files in order for the program to work in the WINDOWS-95 environment. Judging from the number calls to the authors, there have been problems at several offices in making the switch to the new operating system. We have included their summary as a technical attachment to this week's Topics in order to give it wide distribution. The instructions have also been added to SSD's PC Applications web page (

TRAINING AT THE OPERATIONAL SUPPORT FACILITY. As anticipated, budget limitations have forced a cutback in classes and workshops planned at the OSF. It has been determined that the 3-week WSR-88D Operations Course will be taught only three more times--this month, and in March and April. That should be sufficient to provide the intensive in-residence training to all forecasters and hydrologists now at the WSR-88D sites, CWSUs, and RFCs who have not yet been trained.

How WSR-88D training will be provided in the future for forecasters and others yet to be added as part of the end-state staffing for the spin-up WFOs is yet to be determined. Most likely it will be a combination of on-site training, self-study and teletraining from the OSF or NWS Training Center. As slots are available in the remaining operations classes this spring, we will try to schedule interns--giving priority to seniority.

Several three-day Advanced Training Workshops have been held at the OSF. About a dozen Southern Region forecasters recently attended one dealing with 88D applications in a tropical environment. Unfortunately, most of the workshops that were planned for the remainder of this year have been eliminated. A HAS Workshop will be held later this month, with Southern Region attendees from the four RFCs and two service hydrologists. Workshops dealing with Warning Decision Making will be held in March and April. All of the Southern Region slots are in the March workshop, and they are sufficient to allow participants from about half of our 30 WFOs.

UPCOMING RADAR CONFERENCE. The AMS 28th Conference on Radar Meteorology is scheduled for September 7-12, 1997, in Austin, Texas. Prof. Mike Biggerstaff, who is on the CIAMS faculty at Texas A&M, is the program chairperson. Additional details are included in the "Calls for Papers" for this conference, and an associated Special Session on Atmospheric Electricity, which appear in any recent issue of the AMS Bulletin. The deadline for submitting abstracts is March 1. Abstracts should be sent directly to the chairperson, but please provide a copy to SSD.

Although NWS funds to support participation in conferences such as this are very uncertain at this time, we encourage those who are working on related topics--and especially those for whom travel costs might be minimized because of the location--to consider submitting papers. As our experience with the WSR-88D grows, the NWS has much to offer to the scientific community in this area, and the radar conference is an excellent way to do so.

Incidentally, we call attention to the cover of the December 1996 AMS Bulletin which features Mike Biggerstaff's radar lab HTML tutorial. The accompanying article by Prof. John Nielsen-Gammon, et al., provides additional information about this creative use of the Web.

WSR-88D WIDEBAND CONNECTION ESTABLISHED BETWEEN NWSO HOUSTON AND CIAMS. Data have begun flowing over the wideband connection between the Houston WSR-88D and CIAMS at Texas A&M. This connection, one of the first (and few) in the country, will be particularly valuable during the planned Texas A&M Convection and Lightning (TEXACAL) field program May 1 to June 30. A major objective of the field program will be to validate the performance of the damaging winds algorithm developed at NSSL. Base radar data from the Houston WSR-88D will be transmitted to CIAMS over the wideband connection. The data have been processed by the experimental algorithms, with output returned to NWSO Houston over the regional Frame Relay network.

NEW COMET OUTREACH GRANTS. We are pleased to note that two multi-year Cooperative outreach proposals were recently approved by COMET for funding. They are:

Prof. Henry Fuelberg, Florida State University. A multi-faceted applied research project which involves staff members at NWSO Tallahassee and several other offices.

Dr. Jeffrey Trapp, University of Oklahoma/CIMMS/NSSL. Jeff's collaborative project with NWS offices in Norman, Tallahassee, and Minneapolis is titled "An evaluation of the warning utility of tornadic vortex signatures detected by WSR-88D radars."

In response to the COMET request for proposals last fall, no less than five proposals were submitted from university faculty, working in conjunction with Southern Region offices. Only six nationwide were approved. Even in a tight budget situation, the NWS places emphasis on COMET's outreach activities; and the success rate for proposals from our region reflects the quality of work underway at field offices.

MIDLAND WORKSHOP. NWSO Midland/Odessa recently hosted a Winter Weather Workshop for the staff. Five local TV weathercasters also participated, representing ABC, CBS, and NBC stations. MIC Ray Fagen started with an overview of NWS Modernization, and he also discussed the winter storm of January 6-8 that impacted the area with up to a foot of snow. The adverse weather resulted in numerous school closings and economic losses estimated to exceed $2.5 million. WCM George Mathews continued with an in-depth presentation on the impact of the storm in terms of public welfare, and from the perspective of the local media. SOO Brian Francis followed with a post-analysis of the event, emphasizing the role of proper diagnostics and keying on the more advanced prognostic tools such as Q-vectors and CSI.

The workshop evolved into a "round table" discussion with excellent participation among the staff and the local media. Because of the popularity of this workshop, all agreed to have a similar discussion during the upcoming severe weather season for West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.

COASTAL FRONT SEMINAR AT NWSO HOUSTON. Dr. John Neilsen-Gammon from the Cooperative Institute for Applied Meteorological Studies (CIAMS) at Texas A&M University will be delivering a lecture on coastal fronts at NWSO Houston on Friday February 21 at 1:00 pm. Neighboring offices are invited to participate in the seminar, which will be preceded by a lunch at 11:30.

COMET CASE STUDIES WEB PAGE. The project to make COMET case studies available over the Web now has a home page ( In addition to general information about the case study project and the groups involved, the Web document contains a list of currently available COMET case studies, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page, and a What's New page. These web pages are still under development and should continue to grow and change.

Those who would like to receive regular updates on the COMET case study project can subscribe to the e-mail list. To subscribe, direct your Web browser to and complete the form at the bottom of the page selecting "casestudies"from the selection list. Choose the "Send request" button when the form is completed.

RAMSDIS MESOSCALE CLOUD CLIMATOLOGIES. All RAMSDIS sites will soon receive additional software and hardware to enable them to develop local regime-based mesoscale cloud climatologies. The software will produce two sets of monthly averages for four imager channels and the fog/reflectivity product. The first set will consist of an average of all available images by hour, while the second set will consist of hourly averages for nine designated wind regimes. An additional hard drive will be provided to store a month of images and the computed averages. NWSO Tallahassee has been a beta test site for the program. The initial results have been used as guidance for convective forecasts, nowcasts, and TAFs. NWSO Tallahassee's Ken Gould will serve as the field advisor for the cloud climatology program.

SURFACE RUC ANALYSES NOW ON SRH DATA SERVER. Due to the help of Peggy Bruehl, National SOO-SAC Coordinator, surface RUC data are now on the SRH data server. The data are available on the server in GRIB, GEMPAK, and PC-GRIDDS formats, usually five minutes after each hour. Included in the analyses are surface temperature, moisture, wind, potential temperature, equivalent potential temperature, and MSL pressure. SSD has asked NCEP's EMC to consider making the data available sooner, and adding the pressure change and altimeter data which have been available in the older PC-GRIDDS version of the data. SSD has distributed programs to access the PC-GRIDDS version of the data to all offices.

SRH WEB SERVER LINKS TO GOES DATA AND TUTORIALS. Southern Region Web surfers will find links to various GOES imagery, derived products, and tutorials on Bernard Meisner's Weather Links page. (Select the Staff option from the SSD Web page.) Bernard recently attended the COMET Satellite Meteorology Course where the data and tutorials were presented. In addition to the familiar visible and infrared images, NESDIS routinely produces estimates of precipitable water, stability, cloud top heights, and tropospheric winds. Descriptions of the imagery and derived products can be found in the booklet, NESDIS GOES Products and Services Catalog, which was recently distributed to all Southern Region WFOs.



WIRE TAP. Engineering Change Proposal (ECP) F0028 is currently under review and is expected to be approved in February. ECP F0028 replaces the CDT 100s at the Radar Data Acquisition (RDA) Man Machine Interface (MMI) terminal and the RDA Unit Control Position (UCP) terminal with a PC. The PCs would, through a modem, allow for total functionality and remote access from anywhere a phone line is accessible. Estimated kit delivery is scheduled to begin in October 1997 and continue through October 1998.

WHEN 800 CALLS ARE NO LONGER TOLL FREE. This topic is taken from "AT&T FT2000 Billing Briefs," November/December issue.

If you're not careful, calling certain toll-free numbers could end up costing your agency a lot of money. While it is considered policy that agency users refrain from making calls to 800 and 888 numbers for personal use during office hours, non-agency visitors may make what is a seemingly innocent call to a toll-free number which results in massive toll fraud. Here's how:

Under FCC rules, there are no charges for calls made to telephone numbers beginning with 800 or 888 unless callers authorize a transaction through a credit card or "calling card," or have a pre-existing agreement to pay for information they receive once they reach that number.

For example, you may call an 800 or 888 number toll-free, then order a product by paying with your credit card. Or you may have an agreement with an on-line service to gain access through an 800 or 888 number, then pay a fee for searching a data base.

The rules sound simple, but they are still subject to fraud and abuse. Here's how fly-by-night businesses and unscrupulous callers take advantage of the rules:

First, a company advertises 800 and 888 numbers in local newspapers, shoppers' weeklies and adult entertainment magazines--offering "free" calls to connect with adult entertainment lines, horoscopes and other services. Although it's technically true there is no charge to dial the call initially, once a caller reaches the system, it's a different story.

Callers learn that to receive information, they need a credit card or "calling card." If they don't have either one, the system will issue a calling card on the spot by automatically identifying the telephone number they're calling from and adding a four-digit PIN number. Charges are then billed to the caller's telephone number.

From then on, callers can use that same "calling card" to call that particular 800/888 number any time, from any telephone. No matter where they call from, charges are billed to the telephone number from which they placed the initial call.

One small college in the Southeast received bills in excess of $9,000 for calls like these over a two-month period. A student made the initial call from an on-campus telephone, obtained a "calling card" number, then shared it with other students. They called the 800 number repeatedly from off-campus phones, and all calls were billed to the college on that initial telephone number.

Colleges aren't the only ones being hit. Business and government are susceptible too. All it takes is one call from one of your telephones for an unscrupulous caller to set you up for some hefty charges. You'll know you've been "hit" if you see repeated charges on your bill for calls to the same 900 telephone number. (The call is transferred to a 900 number when "calling card" charges apply.)

To minimize this type of fraud, alert your employees to the potential for abuse, keep agency telephones away from areas where non-agency employees may have access to them, and stay with guests when they use an agency phone.

If you think you have a problem of this nature, please call Gene Witsman at (817)978-4967.


AFOS MODEM ELIMINATORS ARE COMING! The AFOS modem eliminators will soon be a reality. The draft modification note for their installation was written at Southern Region Headquarters and is presently being critiqued at several field sites in the region.

The modem eliminators will enable an AFOS Protocol Translator (APT) to receive AFOS synchronous data and convert it to asynchronous data. This arrangement allows an asynchronous data feed of every product, or a selected amount of data sets from AFOS, to the SAC or other PC without having to schedule every product through the AFOS asynchronous scheduler software. The new version of the APT software supports bi-directional communications, including request/reply, from the SAC or PC back to AFOS.

PC-ROSA UPDATE. Severe budget restraints have put the installation of the new cooperative program reporting system on an indefinite hold. The test system is operating at SRH and is available to the CPM/HMT teams for training. If additional information is needed on the system, please contact the RCPS. If funding is made available for the installation of the system, we will coordinate the activities to allow as much "on-site" training as possible.

JEFFERSON AND HOLM AWARDS. Nominations for the Thomas Jefferson and John Campanious Holm Awards were due at SRH by the end of January. As of this writing, less than 15 nominations have been received by RCPS from seven MIC/DAPM/HMT teams. Another five or ten nominations have been promised by various other teams. It is unfortunate that so many teams have not found anyone from their area that might be deserving of these prestigious awards.

DIGIQUARTZ CALIBRATIONS. Many of the Parascientific Digiquartz that were sent to the DAPMs last year to support the observation inspection program will soon be due for annual calibration. A calibration tag is located on the top of each unit and indicates when this service is due. Please plan your inspections so that the unit can be returned to NWSH for service. Normal turnaround time is one week, but plan on being without the unit for two weeks, just to be safe.

STATION INSPECTION SUPPORT. February and March are normally busy months for the inspection of surface programs across the region. Please contact the Surface Observation Program Manager (SOPM) before your inspection trips to coordinate the activities. With the new Access Database being developed at SRH, we can provide a listing of all observers that should have certificates on-station. Once the inspection is complete, please forward your inspection reports, barometer comparisons, and update A1/A3 (if needed) to the SOPM as soon as possible. These are used to update the regional database and the regional station files. They are then forwarded to NWSH.

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