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Fort Worth, Texas

January 2000



We were very saddened to learn of the death last month of John W. Patton, service hydrologist at NWSFO Austin-San Antonio since 1984. John was recognized as an expert on flooding in South Texas, one of the most hydrologically perilous areas of the United States. He was honored numerous times for his achievements, including receiving the DOC Bronze Medal in 1995 and the NWS Max Kohler Award for Excellence in Hydrologic Service in 1998. He recently played a vital role in life saving efforts during the Texas flash flood outbreak in October, 1998. John had just completed a 50-page document detailing the complexities of the hydrometeorology of South Texas. It will be used extensively as a field guide for our hydrology program. We will all miss John, and on behalf of all his NWS friends and coworkers we send condolences to his family.


As of the end of December, Southern Region has seven sites operating solely on AWIPS. At least nine more are required, based on their commissioning dates, to be on AWIPS- only operation by the end of this month, and ten more in February. Those nine sites are being encouraged to switch to AWIPS-only operation mode as soon as possible, as we would like to get this done before the severe weather season starts. We would also like to have as much time as possible to test the system as a region-wide network. Matt Strahan, the AWIPS program manager, is handling the coordination of each site's switch-over date.


SMG SUPPORTS JOHNSON SPACE CENTER INSPECTION DAY 99. The Spaceflight Meteorology Group supported Johnson Space Center's (JSC) fourth annual Inspection Days, which were held in early November. An estimated 3,000 visitors came to JSC to see the specialized technologies that make up the Mission Control Center, astronaut training facilities, and the many behind-the-scenes activities. SMG opened up its operations area for this special event. Escorted groups of visitors to SMG were given demonstrations of MIDDS workstations, showing real-time satellite, radar, lightning, and graphics. A record 735 people visited SMG over the three days. SMG staff contributing to this effort were Karl Silverman, Doris Rotzoll, Mark Keehn, Richard Lafosse, Dan Bellue, Tim Garner, Tim Oram, and MIC Frank Brody. The NASA/JSC post-evaluation said "The Weather Office briefings were excellent. SMG's approach, with color graphics on several active displays and presenters having depth of understanding with ability to speak clearly and effectively, was key in keeping the crowds interest level high."

AMATEUR RADIO EVENT. In late November, the NWS and the amateur radio community organized a special event. That served as a test for hams at NWS offices to contact other amateur radio stations. It provided an opportunity for expansion of our amateur radio contact databases. Southern Region offices who participated in the voluntary event averaged over 300 individual contacts, and contacted between 12 and 24 NWS offices. Local media covered the event at several offices (including live coverage at WFO Melbourne). The event strengthened the important bond between the NWS and the amateur radio community.

MEDIA/EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT SUPPORT. Some highlights from across the Region:

NWSFO Fort Worth/Dallas WCM Jim Stefkovich and SOO Mike Foster provided WSR-88D interpretation workshops to the television weathercasters of the network affiliates in Temple and Waco, Texas, respectively. The workshops included basic radar theory, interpretation of radar signatures, and algorithm strengths and weaknesses. Each of the workshops was well received by those in attendance.

NWSFO Austin/San Antonio recently collaborated with the San Antonio emergency management coordinator regarding hazardous materials support. The NWSFO staff provided the EMC's Incident Commander with frequent wind observations and forecasts. This information was used by officials at the scene and as input to dispersion models for evacuation decisions. The Incident Commander was pleased with the support received from the NWSFO and noted activities were completed with a minimum of danger. This may sound like just another Hazmat drill; however, this was an actual event in downtown San Antonio. The practice, preparation, and drills which had been conducted previously undoubtedly helped all phases of the response, including the weather support provided by the NWS.

NWSO Nashville WCM Jerry Orchanian conducted a winter weather seminar for area media and emergency management officials. The seminar featured presentations by senior forecaster John Gordon (winter weather products and definitions) and SOO Henry Steigerwaldt (review of past winter weather events in middle Tennessee). The attendees found the seminar to be useful and informative.

OUTREACH ACTIVITIES. Some noteworthy projects from the past month:

NWSO Tallahassee forecaster Mike Edmonston gave a presentation on fire weather forecasting at the Odyssey Science Center in Tallahassee. Mike reviewed the basic parameters included in fire weather forecasting and demonstrated forecast techniques. This was one of a series of talks the NWSO staff gave at the center. Previous programs featured NWS operations, severe storms, hurricanes, and the NOAA research aircraft.

NWSFO Austin/San Antonio senior forecaster Larry Peabody wrote an article on NOAA Weather Radio for Winter Texan magazine. Winter Texan is distributed to several thousand vacationers who come to Texas during the winter and spring months. The article features a summary of NWR, broadcast locations and frequencies, and the SRH Web page address. Telephone numbers for NWS offices and for road conditions are also included.


QPF PROCESS IMPLEMENTATION WORKING GROUP MEETING. Representatives from the CONUS NWS regions, NCEP, and NWSH met in early December to discuss issues and tasks with near-term deadlines, and to establish strategies to resolve remaining issues to ensure implementation of the Corporate Board-approved modified QPF process by September 30, 2000. Ben Weiger, HSD deputy chief and Bill Lawrence, ABRFC DOH, represented the Southern Region at the meeting.

The working group reached consensus on two QPF process implementation timelines. They agreed that the RFCs east of the Continental Divide will generate QPF for ingest into the NWS River Forecast System with the NMAP software used at the national centers, and the standard format for the short-term archival and transmission of RFC gridded QPF and quantitative precipitation estimate information would be WMO/NWS GRIB bulletins.

Bill Lawrence will play a major role in the transition to the modified QPF process. Bill will develop scripts to ensure that NMAP can be used operationally at the RFCs to generate RFC QPF formats for the NWS River Forecast System and to support operations at the WFOs and NCEP Hydrometeorological Prediction Center.

Another QPF process implementation working group meeting is set for late March 2000. Current plans call for the SR RFCs to conduct a test and evaluation to demonstrate the modified QPF process during June and July 2000. HSD sent via email information about the QPF process implementation timelines and a summary of information about the working group meeting to all WFOs and RFCs. We will continue to provide you with updated information as it becomes available.


Dry weather and below normal rainfall remain the predominant hydrologic news from the Southern Region HSAs. Many of the reporting stations across West Texas and much of New Mexico received zero rainfall during November. The zero precipitation measurement recorded at Lubbock was only the second time since 1919 that no rainfall was recorded in November. Drought conditions also continue into portions of southern Louisiana where rainfall deficits through November range from 10 to almost 20 inches below normal. Many reservoirs remain at or below conservation pool levels across the region.



WGRFC And NWSFO Ft. Worth Host Mexican Delegation. Early this month, the WGRFC hosted a delegation of five hydrologic and meteorological officials from Mexico. The visit is part of an initiative called Programa de Modernizacion del Manejo del Agua (PROMMA). The program, jointly sponsored by the World Bank and the Mexican government, has as its primary goal the modernization of the Mexican water resource management agency, the Comision Nacional de Aguas (CNA). The visitors were: Dr. Alberto Jaime Parades, manager CNA Technical Department; Dr. Venancio Trueba Lopez, PROMMA coordinator; Dr. Antonio Acosta Godinez, manager, Surface Water and River Engineering Group (GASIR); Lt. Colonel Jose Guadalupe Islas, manager, Mexican Meteorological Service (GSMN); and Inginerio (Engineer) Carlos Espinosa Gonzales, manager, GSMN Technical Department. They were accompanied by Richard Paulson, water-resources consultant to the NWS Office of Hydrology. Presentations on WSR-88D Stage III precipitation processing, the NWS River Forecast System Interactive Forecast Program, and RFC operations were made by DOH Bob Corby, senior hydrologist Frank Bell, senior HAS forecaster Cyndie Abelman, and HAS forecasters Greg Story and Lori Bovitz. Afterward, MIC Skip Ely led the presentations covering NWSFO operations.

New River Outlook Product. The WGRFC plans to initiate a new format for its Hydrometeorological Discussion (HMD), which will now include a longer range outlook for rainfall and potential flooding based on QPF provided by the NCEP Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. This enhancement, slated to begin in early February, will complete a "seamless suite" of products from the RFC. That suite includes the short-term River Forecast, the River Flood Watch, and the HMD. The product will continue to focus on the current hydrometeorological situation, and provide a longer range focus on the flood potential for the current day and the next five days.


UNIVERSITY ASSIGNMENT PROGRAM. Attached to this month's Topics is the annual call for UAP applications. A copy has also been mailed to all offices. Note the period of study covered is the academic year (two semesters, or equivalent) beginning next August or September. The deadline for applications (due at SRH) is March 17. Contact SSD for additional information.

LOCAL AMS PRESENTATION. Mike Foster, SOO at NWSFO Fort Worth, addressed the North Texas Chapter of the American Meteorological Society in January, presenting a seminar on use of the WSR-88D to detect tornadoes. Mike discussed some of the issues that have developed over the past five years since the introduction of the new radar, including its strengths and limitations. He included radar products from the May 3, 1999, tornado outbreak in Oklahoma. The meeting was held at the NWSFO.

SOO PROVIDES INTERNATIONAL TRAINING. NWSO Brownsville SOO, Shawn Bennett, participated as a lecturer in the UN/WMO sponsored "Regional Training Seminar on Operational Post-Processing Techniques for Applications of NWP Products" in Singapore last month. Shawn was the only member of the United States delegation. The International Affairs staff at NWS Headquarters requested his participation because of experience he gained in providing similar training while he was the SOO at NWSFO San Juan. About 30 participants from nearly as many nations participated. Shawn's trip report is included as a tech attachment this month. Great work, Shawn.

MEMPHIS WINTER WEATHER WORKSHOP. Mike Eckert from the NCEP Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (HPC) conducted a winter weather workshop at NWSFO Memphis. He focused on heavy precipitation forecasting in the Tennessee Valley and portions of the Gulf Coast, including heavy rain and heavy snow patterns. In addition to the NWSFO staff, participants included forecasters from adjacent offices.

Coincident with the workshop, NWSO Nashville senior forecaster John Gordon addressed the local Memphis area AMS chapter. He discussed the violent mid-Tennessee tornado outbreak of April 16, 1998. More than 40 supercells were identified on radar, and ten tornadoes were confirmed. The city of Nashville was struck by three tornadoes (one F3 and two F2s). The Nashville tornadoes overshadowed the most violent and dangerous of all the storms, the F5 tornado which struck Lawrence County; perhaps the only F5 known to occur in Tennessee. (John also discussed a proposal to downgrade three earlier tornadoes from F5 to F4 status.)

NCEP MODEL REVIEW. For the past few years the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) have conducted an internal review of their production suite each December. Representatives of the NWS regions and the various NCEP centers are invited to participate in the review. This year's review was conducted on December 9 and 10 at the NOAA Science Center in Camp Springs, MD. A summary of the review is attached to this issue of Topics.

SUPERENSEMBLE FORECASTS ON THE WEB. Former CITM director T. N. Krishnamurti's forecast team at Florida State University has begun development of a Web site with output from their superensemble forecasts ( At present, the Web site includes a few global and regional fields such as winds, pressure and geopotential heights. They plan to shortly add precipitation forecasts and skill scores (root mean square and anomaly correlations). These have the highest skill among all participating models. Two additional models will be added to the superensemble in a few weeks time.

DAVID JOHNSON AWARD. This new NOAA award will recognize outstanding achievements by young scientists who have developed innovative uses of earth-observing satellite data to enhance the assessment or prediction of atmospheric, oceanic or terrestrial conditions. The awards are to be presented next March. The Southern Region was pleased to submit two nominations. NWSO Tallahassee forecaster Ken Gould has utilized RAMSDIS to continue his graduate studies on the Florida sea breeze. He developed GOES satellite cloud climatologies which have been of significant value in forecasting the development of thunderstorms in the Panhandle. Dr. Bill Lapenta at the Global Hydrology and Climate Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and NWSFO Birmingham forecaster Tom Bradshaw have carried out extensive collaboration involving the NWSFO staff in the application of MM5 model output which incorporates satellite skin temperature data. Results have been a significant benefit to short term convective forecasts.

GOES SOUNDER ASSESSMENT. Last summer the NWSH Office of Meteorology conducted an assessment of the operational utility of GOES 8/10 sounder products. About 40 NWS field offices and national centers participated in the evaluation, providing a total of over 600 responses via a Web-based questionnaire. Seven Southern Region offices were involved. Results of the evaluation will help establish the need for sounders on future satellites. A preliminary report on the assessment indicates forecasters found the sounder data useful in a wide variety of weather events, including tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, monsoon precipitation and flash floods. Responses showed the data led to improved forecasts and the issuance of enhanced products in nearly 80% of all critical weather situations encountered by participants during the evaluation. The satellite sounder provided information on the vertical structure of the atmosphere, especially moisture, with a temporal and spatial resolution not otherwise available. The final report on GOES sounder utility, including case studies, should be issued next spring.

FORECASTING RADIATION FOG. COMET has completed a final revision of their Radiation Fog module. It can be found at: This training package addresses one training element (lesson) associated with the Aviation Weather Forecasting PDS.

TOP WEATHER AND CLIMATE EVENTS. In December, NOAA unveiled a list of the top weather, water, and climate events of the 20th century. Many in NOAA and the NWS contributed to the list which comprises events noted for their atmospheric marvel or impact on human life. NOAA director James Baker noted the list "commemorates the century's weather for its intensity, scope, and impact, [but] it is by no means an exhaustive list." Events on the list stand out in the minds of America's weather and climate specialists. For example, although some would argue it was actually a series of events, there's no doubt the Dust Bowl of the 1930s caused an unprecedented weather-induced migration of people, led to major shifts in land usage, and altered the nation's economy in extreme ways for a prolonged period.

In the words of NWS director Jack Kelly, "When laid out in this compilation, these occurrences form a historical road map of progress in weather, water and climate forecasting. They are both a reminder of our vulnerability to the atmosphere, and a testament to the advances we have made." In no particular order, the events are:

The Galveston Hurricane, 1900
The Superstorm of March, 1993
The Dust Bowl, 1930s
The Tri-state Tornado, 1925
Super Tornado Outbreak, 1974
The Oklahoma/Kansas Tornado Outbreak, May, 1999
Hurricane Camille, 1969
The Great Okeechobee Hurricane and Flood, 1928
The Great Midwest Flood, 1993
The Storm of the Century, 1950
El Nino Episodes, 1982-83 and 1997-98
The Florida Keys (Labor Day) Hurricane, 1935
Hurricane Andrew, 1992
The New England Blizzard, 1978
New England Hurricane, 1938

It should be no surprise that at least two-thirds of these events impacted the Southern Region. More information is included in the NOAA release which we can be found on-line at

WSR-88D OPERATIONS TRAINING. Students currently enrolled in the OSF Distance-Learning Operations Course (DLOC) are encouraged to complete the first three exams (AWIPS Radar Proficiency, Exam 1: Radar Principles, and Exam 2: Velocity Interpretations/Products and Algorithms) before they attend the in-residence portion of the course - the WDM-1 workshop. Although it is not a prerequisite, workshop participants who do not complete the exams, especially the AWIPS Proficiency, may be at a disadvantage. The last requirement for completion of the DLOC is Exam 3 which covers material in the System Operations/UCP Control CD-ROM. The CD-ROM, Review Exercise, and a copy of the exam for each student should be sent to each office within the next week or two. The exam should be completed no later than March 31.

At the recent Southern Region MIC/HIC meeting there was some discussion of maintaining radar proficiency, especially for those whose formal radar training preceded AWIPS. The OSF has provided an AWIPS Radar Proficiency Checklist on their Web site at under "What's New?" It can be used as-is, or modified to for local needs. Copies of the checklist (with answers) are being mailed to SOOs, DOHs and CWSU MICs.



Y2K EFFORTS PAY OFF. Congratulations are in order for the ESAs and ETs, and all other employees at the field offices and SRH who worked hard over the past year to replace or upgrade computers and software to make sure their office was Y2K ready. Your efforts resulted in New Year's Eve being a non-event, at least in terms of Y2K problems. The only glitches involved use at some offices of old versions of applications programs which still had "bugs." Even that caused only minor inconveniences, as work-arounds were used until the latest versions could be installed. In a way, Y2K may have been a blessing because it forced us to take a close look at our systems and get rid of outdated hardware and software, some of which dated back to the mid-80s. Now, we have modernized our PC infrastructure and have even greater capabilities to meet the National Weather Service mission in the years ahead.


WSR-88D USER WORKSHOP. More than 20 people attended a recent WSR-88D User Workshop at the National Climatic Data Center. The meeting focused on how WSR-88D Level II and Level III data can be made more readily available to users. The meeting featured presentations from researchers on their use and need for WSR-88D data. A meeting summary and recommendations will be provided to all offices when available.

NEXRAD Y2K ACTIVITIES. Indications are all NWS WSR-88Ds and associated systems such as RIDDS and NG-WDSS survived the Y2K "cross-over" with nary a glitch. Thanks to all the WFOs for performing the OSF recommended reboot procedure shortly after 0000 UTC in meticulous fashion.

DOD UCP MOVE. OSF Systems Engineering completed a successful kit proof of the move of the Unit Control Position from Moody AFB, Georgia (KVAX) to NWSO Jacksonville on November 30. As a result, the final Mod Note has been distributed to affected DOD and NWS offices.

WARNING DECISION MAKING WORKSHOP. The latest in a series of OSF Warning Decision Making (WDM-II) workshops was conducted at COMET in early December. The workshop got good marks in course evaluations. Students were especially impressed by the Displaced Real Time (DRT) scenarios which were presented. A summary of the workshop and many of the presentations are at: The next WDM-II is scheduled for mid-February.

ASOS V2.6 SOFTWARE INSTALLATIONS. Progress continues with the installation of the new V2.6 ASOS software at unstaffed Service Level D sites, as well as at all non-commissioned ASOS sites, and where NWS employees are responsible for ASOS augmentation and backup. The FAA is also starting to notify SRH when the required training on the V2.6 software is completed at certain FAA Contract Air Traffic Control Towers. Once notified of this training completion at specific sites by the appropriate FAA region, SRH will notify the affected WFO whose ET staff is responsible for the V2.6 software installation at that site.

ASOS TIP OF THE WEEK. One of the new features of the V2.6 software allows the ASOS present weather field to accept blowing dust (BLDU) as an acceptable entry on the part of the observer. Previous software loads would not accept the entry of blowing dust in the body of the observation, forcing observers to make appropriate notations in the remarks section.

ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND SAFETY - DECEMBER 1999. During the recent SR MIC/HIC meeting, a one-day course was held for MICs and HICs on Environmental Compliance and Safety, to review the key requirements of the EPA, OSHA, and DOT regulations which affect NWS operations. Any MIC or HIC who was unable to attend or did not get the reference manual, should contact Terry Brisbin at (817) 978-2644x139 and a copy will be provided.

In the course described above, each office manager was requested to list any hazardous work environments in his or her CWA so this information could be included in a general Southern Region ROML on safe work practices. This could include towers, bridges, trestles, or other structures, locations or situations which could pose a hazard to employees accessing NWS equipment in the normal course of their job. This information should be forwarded to John Duxbury W/SR42 and/or Terry Brisbin W/SR42x31.

WASTEWATER ANALYSES. Wastewater effluent sample analyses for 1999 were taken at Shreveport, Lake Charles, and New Orleans for annual permit reports required by the State of Louisiana. There are four indicators of sewage plant operating efficiency required at each site, and only one site was out of range on one indicator, due to a worn air pump (which has since been replaced). We also have a wastewater permit in Miami and are required to take monthly sewage pump readings which are reported to the county annually.

DUST CONTROL. Work continues at the RDA in Albuquerque to abate problems from the effluent odors and solid waste particulate originating from the adjacent Albuquerque Soil Amendment Facility, a compost plant that mixes wastewater sludge with wood chips and feedlot waste to make compost. New electrostatic air filters were installed on the RDA air conditioners, the outside air dampers were closed, the RDA interior was cleaned, and air samples will be taken to measure the airborne particulate load. The NWS will also work with the city and MASC at this leased facility to further reduce odor and dust problems caused primarily by heavy vehicle traffic on dirt roads.



NWSFO LITTLE ROCK. Meredith Mitchell, a high school junior, recently visited the NWS office in North Little Rock for help with her science fair project. Meredith became interested in meteorology as a career after she won science fair honors in her sophomore year with her project on El Niño. At that time, she was awarded a subscription to Weatherwise by George Wilken, SOO, and president of the Arkansas Chapter of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association, who was a judge at that fair. Meredith was provided with information for her current project on "Tornado Alley," and George will serve as her mentor in this endeavor.

WCM John Robinson participated in a Boy Scout Camporee (a jamboree with an overnight camp out) in Little Rock for 50 Boy Scouts comprising three ethnic groups. The camporee was sponsored by the Little Rock City Attorney's office. John taught subjects to help the scouts work on merit badges in weather. On-air meteorologists from each of Little Rock's three TV stations were also in attendance.

NWSFO forecaster John MacLeod spoke to a junior high science class on their hobby day. In this class of 13, at least three of the students had a keen interest in meteorology. John also gave a weather talk at Forest Heights Elementary School before an equally diverse group of 46 students.

NWSO TALLAHASSEE. WCM Bob Goree manned an NWS table at the Randolph County Disaster Awareness Day in Cuthbert, Georgia. He discussed public safety, NWS operations and entertained questions from the attendees.


DECEMBER 1-31, 1999

Southern Region Losses
Name From (Office) Action/Transfer From Title/Grade
Shane Snyder WFO ABQ Reas to WR Met Intern, GS-7
Andrew Haner WFO TSA Reas to WR Forecaster, GS-12
Larry Toombs WFO LUB Retirement DAPM, GS-12
Jerry Yeager WFO TSA Retirement HMT, GS-11
John Patton WFO EWX Death Service Hydrologist, GS-13

Southern Region Gains
Name To (Office) Action/Transfer To Title/Grade
David Novlan WFO EPZ New Hire Forecaster, GS-11
Brad McGavock WFO ABQ New Hire Met Intern, GS-7
Scott Wigginton WFO BRO New Hire Met Intern, GS-7
Within Region Transfers/Actions
Name To (Office) Action/Transfer To Title/Grade
Charlie Lake SRH SOD Reas from TSA El Tech, GS-12
Faith Borden WFO BMX Prom from BMX Forecaster, GS-9
Tim Coleman WFO BMX Conv from SCEP-BMX Met Intern, GS-7

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