UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas
July 15, 1997
QUESTIONS REMAIN. As many of you know, Dr. Robert Winokur has been detailed from NESDIS and is now acting NWS Director for at least several months as the search for a new Director continues. The Kelly group discussed in the last issue of Topics is expected to complete their NWS-wide review by mid-September. The review is expected to focus primarily on the financial and budgeting areas of the NWS.
The NWS has scheduled a Directors' meeting for the week of July 28, in Washington, D.C. Following that meeting, we should know more about the current situation.
The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees have completed their recommendations on the FY 98 NWS budget. The next step will be a House/Senate conference committee which will resolve any wording differences existing between the two appropriations actions, and then, a move to approval by both Houses of the Congress. So, a lot of the appropriations process will need to play out before we know what our actual FY 98 budget will be. In the meantime, a NOAA reprogramming request has gone to Congress to allow other NOAA funds in FY 97 to be used by the NWS.
In the Southern Region, we are managing our FY 97 budget very tightly, and with just one quarter to go, we should be coming in right on target. Nevertheless, we are continuing to tighten up in the area of supplies in an effort to stay on top of what resources remain across the region.
Although we have the OK to proceed with non-competitive career promotions and the formal announcement for recruiting our field vacancies, the approval to go ahead and make the selections will probably be held up until we receive our FY 97 reprogramming funds. In the meantime, the outside hiring freeze remains in effect.
WHERE TO GO. Some of you may have already found the various Internet sites that contain the latest news on AWIPS. If you have not, here are a few locations where information is available.
MEDIA WORKSHOP IN TULSA. On Friday, July 11, WFO Tulsa conducted a meteorology workshop for meteorologists from eastern Oklahoma and northwestern Arkansas. Billed as an informal, casual gathering of "meteorologists sitting around and talking meteorology," the event was attended by 11 media-sector meteorologists representing five of the major TV networks in Tulsa and Ft. Smith.
Steve Amburn (SOO) facilitated the workshop. Dr. Don Burgess, Operations Training Branch Chief at the OSF, presented information on the status of the NEXRAD program and recent OSF findings on tornado detection. Dan Spaeth (TSA intern) made a presentation on helicity and mid-level flow effects on precipitation distribution in thunderstorms. Steve Piltz (WCM) presented findings from recent local research on the Ft. Smith tornado, and Lans Rothfusz (MIC) hosted a forum on potential new product formats generated by the Interactive Forecast Preparation System (IFPS).
Discussions were enlightening and friendly. It was pleasing to see the TV meteorologists so easily set aside the competitive nature of their industry and talk about science for a while with their colleagues and NWS partners! At the conclusion of the workshop, attendees were asked if such an event should be repeated yearly. The group responded enthusiastically, "No! We want to do this twice a year!" Plans are already underway for another workshop in the fall.
SMG CONDUCTS TRAINING COURSE. The Spaceflight Meteorology Group conducted a nine hour training course for NASA Space Shuttle support personnel on June 10 and 11 at the Johnson Space Center.
Subject material included SMG operations and various topics in general meteorology. Wayne Baggett, SMG Training Coordinator directed the course, but all SMG staff participated as instructors. Administrative Assistant Monica Sowell and Student Aide Krissy Grote worked very hard putting together the course materials to meet the June 10 deadline.
Thirty two NASA personnel signed up for the course, but only twenty were able to attend due to mission training requirements. Attendees were mostly NASA flight controllers, mission support personnel, and training specialists who direct mission simulations. Most have engineering backgrounds.
The course is usually conducted on a yearly basis, but was last held in December 1995. Course materials and presentations are updated prior to each class to reflect changing flight rules and mission requirements, and to incorporate suggestions from student evaluations.
SAME NWR RECEIVER FROM TANDY/RADIO SHACK. According to information from Tandy Corporation/Radio Shack, their NWR SAME receiver is expected to be in stores around September 1, 1997. Radio Shack plans to mail their "September flyer" to about 15,000,000 households. Included with the new receiver will be a reprint of the NWS hurricane brochure and tracking chart. They will set-up a FAX-BACK system with their stores so all the clerk has to do is call a company number, punch-in the right codes, and the system will fax back to the store a FIPS list for that state only. Radio Shack customer service personnel will be prepared to provide information as well. Their SAME receiver manual will also refer people to call the NWS office serving their area for help. NWSH is installing a 1-800 number system to assist users in determining the FIPS numbers needed to program the SAME unit for the area in which it will be used. All this has been a long time in the making. Sounds exciting.
NWR EXPANSION IN FLORIDA. Suwanee County Emergency Management officials bought, installed, and are maintaining an NWR system to serve the Live Oak area in north-central Florida. The Live Oak NWR will be programmed by NWSO Jacksonville. The ID is WWG-30; it operates on a frequency of 162.450 MHZ, and at a power of 300 watts. A warm welcome is extended to the 19th NWR serving Florida and the 131st NWR in the Southern Region.
SCHOOL OUTREACH. Southern Region staff members have been very active over the past weeks directing and participating in student outreach and education activities. A few of the highlights are listed below:
NWSO Melbourne WCM Dennis Decker and WSO Daytona Beach OIC Terry Ingoldsby represented the NWS at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Aviation Education Career Workshop. The workshop is attended by high school students not only from central Florida but from across the nation as well. During one of the workshop's seminars, Dennis and Terry discussed the NWS' role in aviation operations and safety and they described career opportunities in the NWS.
NWSFO Albuquerque Forecaster Glenn Carrin and NWSFO Lubbock WCM Larry Vannozzi participated in a joint preparedness venture in Clovis, NM. They spoke to over 650 students at the Farm Safety Day Camp. The camp attracted students from across east-central New Mexico and featured 11 "safety stations," including a weather safety booth staffed by Glenn and Larry. They stressed tornado and lightning safety to the camp attendees, who seemed well-informed about severe weather safety.
NWSO Midland Administrative Assistant Karen Fago received a complimentary letter from the Midland Police Department regarding the highly successful "Thunder Bucket" program she started several years ago. The M.P.D. has developed a comprehensive children's safety program called Home Alone; the program administrators have adopted the Thunder Bucket as a part of their weather safety unit. The letter stated that "the Thunder Buckets have been a viable tool in our teaching and the local National Weather Service, in particular Karen Fago, have been a tremendous help in making this a very popular program." Congratulations, Karen!
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS. As we move into late July, we start to enter a climatological period of increased tropical cyclone activity. Southern Region offices continue their active hurricane coordination and preparedness activities along the coastal regions.
NWSO Lake Charles MIC Steve Rinard recently hosted a live television weather broadcast from the NWSO. The event commemorated the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Audrey's landfall in southwestern Louisiana. Nearly 500 people were killed when Audrey struck the coast, making it one of the most significant weather events in U.S. history. A major part of the newscast described hurricane season and the improvements that have been made within the NWS and in emergency management programs over the past 40 years.
NWSO Tampa Bay WCM Walt Zaleski served as part of a panel of seven hurricane experts at a southwest Florida hurricane seminar. The remainder of the panel consisted of local media, emergency management, and government officials. Along with the "standard" information such as hurricane hazards and terminology, the panel repeatedly stressed the importance of every resident to take personal responsibility for understanding the threat and how to best react as a tropical cyclone approaches.
NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge MIC Paul Trotter was the featured speaker at the New Orleans Federal Executive Board meeting. Paul delivered a hurricane preparedness speech and slide presentation. Paul reported that a great deal of enthusiastic discussion followed the speech and that several additional preparedness talks for other organizations were scheduled. In addition, time was spent reviewing interagency coordination and the roles that each agency will play during a hurricane threat.
SHV KUDOS. NWSO Shreveport WCM Bruce Burkman recently traveled to Monroe, LA, for a spotter training session. At the beginning of the session, the Mayor of Monroe and the local media (TV and radio) were called to the front of the meeting room. The Mayor made a short speech about preparedness and the NWSO's visible role in the community. The Mayor then presented Bruce with a Certificate of Appreciation for his involvement in the preparedness program for Monroe and the surrounding communities. Congratulations, Bruce!
THE BEST. NWSFO Albuquerque provided more than the usual amount of support to the USFS prescribed burn "Lummis" in the Jemez Mountains during the first part of July. This project did not include any on site support. Mr. Chuck Vickery, from USFS Region 6, was in charge of this project. After the project ended on Sunday, July 13, Mr. Vickery called Chuck Maxwell, IMET at NWSFO ABQ and told him the office's support for this job was "THE BEST" support he had ever gotten from the NWS anywhere, and that the accuracy of our forecasts during the project was outstanding.
Kudos to the staff at the NWSFO on a fine job; everyone appreciates your hard work.
FLOODING IN SOUTH FLORIDA. Above normal rains in South Florida persisted into the middle of June. The saturated grounds served to worsen the situation when heavy rains moved across West Miami City on June 14 and 15. NWSFO Miami hydrologic focal point Jere Gallup says that 30 to 40 homes were flooded during the event. NWSFO Miami handled the two day rain with forecasts and statements emphasizing the flood threat and including QPF. The office used the hazardous weather outlook (HWO), urban flood statements (FFS) and short term forecasts (NOW) to heighten awareness during the flood.
MISSISSIPPI FLOODING. NWSFO Jackson senior service hydrologist Tom Thompson reports that heavy rains battered Holmes County, Mississippi, during the 24 hours ending at 1:00 p.m., June 10. Over six inches of rain was reported in Lexington where the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency estimated over $3.5 million in damage occurred. Evacuations were ordered for nearly 1000 residents of the Pecan Grove and Balance Due areas south of Lexington. Elsewhere in the Jackson HSA, Columbia registered 12.71 inches of rain for June eclipsing the previous monthly record of 10.93 inches set in 1983, and Walnut Grove broke their June, 1989, record of 10.30 inches as they measured 10.88 inches of rain.
FLOOD DAMAGE IN ARKANSAS. Heavy June rains also battered parts of Arkansas. Late Monday and early Tuesday, June 16 and 17, widespread two-inch rains with isolated amounts greater than seven inches fell over central and southern sections of the state. NWSFO Little Rock service hydrologist Steve Bays reports that the city of Malvern was especially hard hit as a combination of river flooding and flash flooding impacted the area. Aggravating the situation was an exceptionally large release of water (59,000 cfs) from the Remmel Dam. Local emergency management personnel reported eight homes damaged, 11 water rescues, and four highways closed or damaged by the event.
MORE JUNE DELUGES. The NWSO San Angelo had their hands full during June. Several distinct flood and flash flood events occurred during the month. Hydrologic focal point Amy McCullough notes that January through June rain totals in the San Angelo HSA are from three to four times the normal for the period. Topping the list of rain receivers this first half of 1997 are Mason with 31.65 inches and Taylor Ranch with 35.29 inches. The rains have been beneficial in that most area reservoirs are at or near full capacity.
NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS
Tiptonville River Forecast Point. NWSFO Memphis service hydrologist Buzz Merchlewitz coordinated with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Southern Region Hydrologic Services Division (HSD) in creating a river forecast point at Tiptonville, Tennessee. Buzz preceded forecast issuance with official notification of the new point through (among others) AFOS public information statements (PNSs). He then began issuing forecasts for the new point on June 16. This is a good time to remind Southern Region HSA offices that the addition, deletion, or modification of river forecast points (including the changing of flood stages) must be coordinated through HSD and the supporting RFC.
Inter-Regional Cooperation. Steve Bays (NWSFO Little Rock) met with the hydrologic focal point from the Springfield, Missouri, NWSO to discuss the unique and dangerous flash flood threat in the Ozarks. Steve was able to pass along several internet data sources to his Central Region colleague, as well as letting him know about the Buffalo River ALERT system which has dial-in capability.
Floodplain Management Meeting. Lubbock NWSFO service hydrologist Steve Drillette and WCM Larry Vanozzi attended a Texas Floodplain Management Association conference June 11 through 13. The two presented information on rainfall, near-term flood potential in West Texas, recent West Texas flood events, and the upcoming hurricane season. Steve and Larry came away from the meeting with a better understanding of floodplain management, FEMA, and guidelines and restrictions imposed by the National Flood Insurance Program on homes and businesses built in flood plains.
Fire and Water in New Mexico. Recently, El Paso hydrologic focal point Tim Brice traveled to the NWSFO in Albuquerque for fire weather training. Albuquerque senior service hydrologist Ed Polasko took advantage of Tim's appearance by familiarizing him with the daily river season hydro duties at the Albuquerque office. The two also researched past flood and flash flood events in the El Paso HSA. Besides learning the ins and outs of fire weather forecasting, Tim took home a bundle of additional information for inclusion in the El Paso hydro duties manual.
NEWS FROM OUR RIVER FORECAST CENTERS
Software Applications from ABRFC. Suzanne Fortin (senior HAS forecaster, ABRFC) has developed a flash flood risk program whose Beta version was implemented in May. The program generates graphics highlighting the flash flood potential for counties and basins within the ABRFC domain. To see the program in action, access the following URL: http://info.abrfc.noaa.gov/ffrisk.htm
Also from ABRFC, an updated version of the Xnav software (developed by Bill Lawrence and James Paul) is available. This version, Xnav0.81, contains a fix to a problem with fonts that version 0.8 had. RFCs can download the newest Xnav from the ABRFC server.
SOO NEWS. NWSFO Austin/San Antonio recently conducted an afternoon training forum for the staff, covering tropical meteorology in general, and tropical cyclone operations in particular. Jim Ward (SOO) began the session with a review of basic summertime weather regimes in South Texas. Joe Arellano (MIC) and Andy Patrick (SOO) from NWSO Corpus Christi covered problem areas along the middle Texas coast and the Coastal Bend during a hurricane strike. Corpus Christi is finalizing a study of hurricane strikes along the Texas Coast, comparing El Niño versus La Niña years. NWSO Houston/Galveston MIC, Bill Read, discussed problem areas along the upper Texas coast. Bill also described operations during tropical cyclones, including backup procedures. Seventeen attended the NWSFO forum, including the three out of town visitors.
Congratulations to NWSFO San Juan SOO, Shawn Bennett, on the publication of the paper he co-authored with Ron Holle, NSSL) titled "Lightning Ground Flashes Associated with Summer 1990 Flash Floods and Streamflow in Tucson, Arizona: An Exploratory Study." The paper appears in the latest (July) Monthly Weather Review. Tucson is a long way from San Juan in many ways but Shawn was an NSSL researcher stationed at WSFO Phoenix prior to his selection for the SOO job.
The same issue of Monthly Weather Review contains the paper "Thunderstorm Initiation, Organization, and Lifetime Associated with Florida Boundary Layer Convergence Lines," by Jim Wilson and Daniel Megenhardt (NCAR), which will be of special interest to forecasters in Florida. Others in coastal areas will appreciate the detailed examination of sea breeze interactions with other mesoscale boundaries such as gust fronts.
EL NIÑO IMPACTS. The impact of a strong El Nin˜o on both the atmosphere and the marine environment is becoming well-known. Two recent news stories caught our attention, however, and are worth noting. They illustrate how nations and companies are beginning to respond to climate-scale impacts and improved forecasts for such events.
Reuters News Service reported that Ecuador's President Fabian Alarcon has declared a national emergency in order to give his government special powers to cope with the present El Niño weather pattern. The economic impact on his country will be great, and declaring a national emergency helps the government use certain resources. The government has set aside $7.5 million for infrastructure projects to try to soften the impact of the forecast rains and flooding. Heavy rains may have already damaged rice, banana, and sugar crops, but the worst weather is expected in September. The 1982-83 El Niño caused an estimated $640 million damage in Ecuador.
In a related news story, it was reported that El Niño forecasting is becoming big business, and more businesses are turning to meteorologists for advice. By one estimate, weather costs the nation's economy $80 billion annually, and some say $2 billion of that is easily avoidable. According to Smith Barney meteorologist, Jon Davis, as reported in an AP story by Amanda Grove, "There's no question about it ... there are things we can do now that we couldn't do five or ten years ago to get a real handle on this."
Finally, an excellent and timely article by Kevin Trenberth (NCAR) in the June 1997 issue of the Bulletin of the AMS provides a summary of El Niño/ENSO and related issues that could be very helpful for answering questions which may come into the office. The title is, "Short-Term Climate Variations: Recent Accomplishments and Issues for Future Progress."
NWSTC CLASSES FOR NEXT YEAR. Because so much effort is going into converting in-residence classes into courses taught by other means (including teletraining), the NWSTC class offerings will be minimal next year at least from the Hydrometeorology and Management Division side of the NWSTC house. At this time the NWSTC has planned for a single FDC class, which is assumed to be sufficient for all remaining interns who have not yet attended the FDC. There will be several CPM classes during FY 1998, and a number of Team Leadership classes are planned, although funds are not yet available to support them. All of the other courses which have been taught in Kansas City for many years are no longer in the plans, for in-residence classes, at least.
Two new courses planned to start next year are:
AWIPS WHFS WORKSHOP (SYS03): WHFS is the WFO Hydrologic Forecast System software associated with AWIPS. Training for each office (WFO) will occur about one month after AWIPS installation. Specific training dates will be determined based on AWIPS deployment. Each office will send the Service Hydrologist, or hydro focal point, and perhaps the SOO. AWIPS IFPS WORKSHOP (SYS06): IFPS is the AWIPS Integrated Forecast Preparation System software. Training for each WFO will occur about two months after AWIPS installation, with specific dates for each office to be determined based on deployment. An "IFPS focal point" will attend, and perhaps the SOO.
NEW WSR-88D OPERATIONS COURSE. The OSF in Norman has wasted little time in converting operations training for the WSR-88D from an in-residence course to a distance learning course. An outline of the revised course is attached to this week's Topics. Notice that it comprises a variety of training media and techniques, including teletraining, which will utilize the new OPTEL Audiographics equipment that has been ordered for all offices. More information about the revised course will be provided in the near future.
FINAL SHARP UPDATE RELEASED. Greg Jackson (SOO, NWSO San Angelo) has released the final updated version of SHARP. This version fixes recently reported problems and improves some items such as the screen dump function for producing hard copies. The revised program and associated README file are available on the SRH server in the /ext1/download directory. Those who connect to the server via modem should select Option 10. "Download PC Applications Programs," then Option 2. "Download Greg Jackson's Latest SHARP Program (SHARP697.ZIP)."
A reminder: BRUN45.EXE, the QuickBASIC run-time library, must be in the file search path (i.e., C:\DOS on DOS machines or C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND for Windows 95 machines). This file is readily available and has been distributed with previous versions of SHARP and WISEII.
DOWNBURST GUIDANCE. Gary Ellrod (NESDIS) has advised us that a new product, derived from GOES sounder data, is available for estimating maximum possible wind gusts from convective storms. The product displays color-coded Wind Index (see the WINDEX article by Donald McCann in the December 1994 issue of Weather and Forecasting) values superimposed on a visible or infrared image. The product is available on the Web at: http://orbit-net.nesdis.noaa.gov:80/ora/fpdt1/mb.html. The data are available about 1.5 hr after the time of the retrieval, for both GOES-8 and GOES-9. High values of WINDEX do not necessarily mean that convection is likely, since low-level forcing is sometimes lacking, resulting in heat and humidity, but not much else. User comments would be welcome, and can be provided through the same Web link.
LIGHTNING FATALITIES. Last week, an isolated afternoon thunderstorm in the Tampa Bay Area produced just two detected cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, but one was sufficient to result in the death of one man and injury to another on a golf driving range. Florida and central Florida in particular leads the nation in lightning-related deaths and injuries. Charlie Paxton and Ron Morales at NWSO Tampa Bay Area summarized Florida's lightning fatalities during 1996 in a paper which we have attached to this week's Topics. A large proportion of all injuries and deaths result from the "first stroke" of lightning from a storm or as in the case last week, from storms that may produce only a few strokes quite literally "out of the blue." Warnings for such commonplace events are not likely, so the best alternative is developing a healthy respect for what even a single lightning strike may do.
AFOS TRAFFIC. AFOS traffic has reached the saturation point with more than 87,000,000 characters passing through the system per day. The volume has been causing a lot of front-end crashes on the SSMC system and needs some relief. The increase in traffic is primarily a result of the increase in data products including the RCMs, HDPs, etc. We will be working with NWSH to determine how to alleviate traffic.
RADAR PROGRAM UPDATE. During the first week in July, we accepted our last WSR-88D in Southern Region. The Birmingham office now has a PUP associated with the northeast Alabama WSR-88D, with additional connections scheduled for Morristown and the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville. There are still several problems that need to be worked out, but we expect to commission the radar late this year.
Work continues on the interface between the WSR-88D and AWIPS. Recently, a number of experts gathered in Tulsa to discuss the lines of responsibility between the two systems. Included in the discussion was some debate on the responsibility of National Weather Service personnel in the maintenance of AWIPS. Right now the agreement is that National Weather Service's responsibility will end at the punch down block, but there is sure to be more discussion on this and similar concerns.
The San Juan radar was commissioned by the FAA on July 7, 1997. This allows access by the NIDS vendors, as well as increases in the maintenance priority by local FAA technicians. The next step is to connect the radar to a PUES port to get access to the RCMs and HDPs. The change request will be going to NWSH as soon as possible.
COMPUTER DELIVERY. It appears that the last computer order has cleared NOAA. Southern Region offices can expect delivery in late July. Remember that the property forms must be coordinated with NOAA and not MASC. More precise information will be sent as we get closer to the delivery date.
This will probably be the last of the Dell orders. Due to a change in marketing strategy, the price of the computers has gone up about $500 each. This is no longer the best value to the government. We will be looking for other vendors should we get the opportunity to upgrade more computers next year.
COMPUTER USAGE. NOAA and the NWS have just negotiated a new contract for Corel 7.0. This bulk purchase provides 10 licenses for each NWSO and NWSFO and 15 for each RFC. The licenses are for use on both desktop and notebook computers. Each MIC and HIC has the discretion to distribute the licenses to meet office requirements.
It is also time to remind everyone that NWS computers are to be used for official business only. Local managers should review the rules to ensure that personnel are aware of the consequences of misuse of government equipment.
SENDING A MESSAGE TO YOURSELF. One complaint often heard about cc:Mail Mobile is that when on travel or from home, you cannot copy a message to yourself (for use at the office) when sending a message so that you'll have it at your desktop when you return to the office. This is because your name is not (and cannot be) in your mobile directory. Here is a simple work around for the problem.
To copy yourself at work, address the message to W-SR-XXX (where XXX is your office ID) and fill in the window with your name (this can be added to a list of name(s) for the W-SR-XXX post office for future use also). In this way, the message will be on your cc:Mail for Windows at the office when you return.
The reason this works is that each post office must have a name. In the case of XXX at the office, it is W-SR-XXX and you access it with cc:Mail for Windows at the office desktop computer. For your cc:Mail Mobile, your name is used as the name of the "mobile" post office. Therefore, using the office W-SR-XXX post office name for the addressee in your message and then filling in your name (or picking from your list), will accomplish the otherwise impossible task.
The only other solution is that as we begin using the laptop computer for office and mobile work, we have everything on one computer and this no longer becomes a problem.
SERVICE LEVEL A/B AUGMENTATION. Several Southern Region Offices collocated with ASOS began Aviation Service Level A or B augmentation and backup effective July 14. The additional duties are performed as a function of an ASOS Basic Weather Watch. Offices affected by this implementation are: (Level A) Albuquerque, (Level B) Midland/Odessa, Corpus Christi, and Jackson.
LANDSBURG AWARD PRESENTATION. The Helmut E. Landsburg award was presented to Mr. William Booth of Woodstock, GA, as part of the community's Centennial Celebration. Mr. Booth has been the volunteer observer for 60 years for the community, which is located just north of Atlanta. Carlos Garza, MIC/FFC, presented the award following the 4th of July parade which was led by Mr. Booth as the Grand Marshall. Also participating in the award ceremony were Frank Taylor (DAPM/FFC), Grant Goodge (NCDC), and Mike Asmus (RCPM/SRH).
MISSING DATA PERCENTAGES. The National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) released the final percentages for missing Cooperative Observer data for the month of April, 1997. While the percentages are still admirable, for the first time in many months the percentage rose to above 1%. Of the 1,935 volunteer reports expected by NCDC, 22 total missing B91/92 forms for the month resulted in a 1.2% missing factor.
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