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Fort Worth, Texas

June 15, 1997



SOUTHERN REGION HEADQUARTERS REMAINS FULLY OPERATIONAL.On June 3, five long time employees of the Southern Region took advantage of the voluntary "Buyout" program and left federal service for retirement. The five Southern Region Headquarters' employees that opted to seek the good life were Jerry Wolfe, Don Blevins, Dorothy (Martin) Poplin, Robert Sams, and Marshadawn Spencer. We miss them already; nevertheless, although we have had to tighten up a bit, everyone needs to know the Southern Region Headquarters will remain fully operational for at least several months and no responsibility has been transferred to other regions.

Other Southern Region employees taking the Buyout were Michael McLaughlin, NWSFO ABQ; Brenda Page, WSO HSV; Robert (Dale) Reed, WSO DRT; and Fred Roush, WSO FSM. They will all be missed after many years of dedicated NWS service.


ATLANTIS TESTS NEW FLIGHT RULE LIMITS.The Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida at 1328 UTC on Saturday, May 24 after nine days in space, five of those docked with Russian Mir Space Station.

Atlantis lifted off on time at 0807 UTC on May 15 under clear Florida skies and ideal launch weather conditions. The landing weather on May 24, however, was quite another story.

A weak dissipating frontal trough provided thick cloud cover over most of peninsular Florida six hours prior to scheduled touchdown. As a result, the decision to deorbit was postponed one orbit later, and nearly for 24 hours. NASA just recently lowered the KSC End of Mission ceiling flight rule limits from 10,000 to 8,000 feet effective for STS-84. As fate would have it, the limits got a real test as Atlantis landed with a broken ceiling of 8,500 feet.

The decision to wave-off the 1st opportunity (1151 UTC) was made at 1015 UTC, when cloud ceilings surrounding the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF) were below flight rule limits even though significant drying was occurring to the north. This proved to be a wise decision as the verifying observation for the 1st opportunity carried a ceiling of 7,000 ft.

The decision for the 2nd landing opportunity was even tougher as lower clouds began to develop when the convective temperature (77) was reached two hours before scheduled 1328 UTC touchdown. The forecast was amended 20 minutes prior to deorbit decision from a "GO" to a "NO GO" due to the threat of low ceilings. However, ten minutes later, conditions began to improve at the SLF, and with the help of the Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) weather reconnaissance, forecasters were able to remove the mention of low ceilings from the forecast just two minutes prior to the final deorbit burn decision. The observed ceiling at touchdown was 8,500 broken, although ceilings at 7,500 broken were observed briefly, both prior to and during deorbit, by the SLF observer and the STA weather aircraft.

Melbourne WSR-88D in "clear air mode" and GOES 8 band 2 IR were valuable tools in detecting and evaluating cloud development and movement during these shuttle landing decisions. Also the "Nite Fog" enhancement which utilizes the differing band widths from 10.7 to 3.9 microns was useful earlier in the evaluation process when the cloud layers were lower.

STS-84 marked the 8th consecutive KSC landing, a new record for the Space Shuttle program. SMG Lead forecaster for STS-84 was Wayne Baggett working his 7th mission as Lead and 43rd mission overall. Dan Bellue was the Assistant Lead/TAL Forecaster, while Doris Rotzoll was the Lead Techniques Development Meteorologist.

TAF CHECK. Tom Hicks, MIC at CWSU ZFW, has been tracking TAF coding errors at our offices for the past several months using version 1.5 of his TAFCheck program. For the month of May, ABX, FWD, MEG, SJT, CRP, BRO, LCH, and AMA all had error rates below 10%. NWSOs Amarillo and Lake Charles both had rates less than 1%! Great job!

If you have not been using Tom's TAFCheck program, now's the time to give it a try. The program does a very good job at flagging coding errors, even some of the most obscure ones.

TWEB TRANSFERS. It appears that our spin-up offices are on target to assume TWEB route forecast responsibility on Tuesday, July 1. A number of NWSOs have worked in conjunction with nearby NWSFOs to conduct TWEB preparedness training activities. Included as an attachment in this edition of the Topics is a summary of one such effort in Florida. Robert Molleda, forecaster at NWSFO Miami, conducted a series of workshops on TWEB forecasting at several of the state's NWSOs in May. As you'll read, the workshops covered the whole gamut of topics related to TWEB forecasting and appeared to contribute very positively to the preparedness effort.

Regarding WSOM Chapter D-30, last minute changes to chapter examples and appendices have slowed progress on its sign-off. However, these changes are not expected to delay implementation of the chapter beyond the July 1 deadline. Our hats are off to both Christine Alex and Jim Roets at W/OM14 who have done an outstanding job at readying the chapter for implementation. In addition to the massive task of coordinating the national route implementation with the FAA and other customers, they have had to feed through a multitude of regional comments, suggestions, and proposed transfer activities in preparing this chapter.

Each office will be expected to append a phrase to their last TWEBs on June 30 to alert customers to the implementation of the revised route system. Since this is a national implementation, NWS Headquarters will be notifying the Regions of the appropriate wording for their offices to use.

HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS. The 1997 hurricane season is underway. At the recent Florida Governor's Hurricane Conference, Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University continued his 1997 seasonal forecast of 11 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 intense storms.

Coastal offices across the Region have continued their strong hurricane preparedness campaigns. Some highlights are listed below.

Frank Revitte, WCM at NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge, outlined activities in support of Louisiana Hurricane Awareness Week. The office prepared 500 brochures and mailed them to emergency managers and media outlets in south and central Louisiana. Frank and Rich Davis (OIC at Baton Rouge) participated in a series of press conferences during the week, and Rich assisted with weather information at the statewide hurricane preparedness exercise.

Gary Beeler, WCM at NWSO Mobile, participated in Alabama Hurricane Awareness Week. Gary and Brian O'Hara (Met Intern) attended the Alabama Governor's Hurricane Conference where they demonstrated EMWIN to over 100 attendees. The office conducted an area-wide orientation for their local emergency managers at the NWSO. The program allowed the local officials to familiarize themselves with the equipment and software used by the NWSO.

Joe Arellano, John Cole, and Steve Pfaff of NWSO Corpus Christi were active participants in the Coastal Bend Emergency Management Association conference held at the NAS in Corpus Christi. The conference also featured Max Mayfield from TPC/NHC and several local officials. Max, Joe, and Steve also provided interviews to local television stations. Nearly 400 people from the Texas Coastal Bend area attended the conference. John was also a guest speaker at the annual Port Lavaca Disaster Conference, also attended by approximately 400 people. John's talk included a summary of the 1996 hurricane season, predictions for the 1997 season, and a review of Texas hurricane climatology.

Rafael Mojica, WCM at NWSFO San Juan, led the NWSFO staff in their annual Hurricane Safety Fair at a major shopping mall in San Juan. NWSFO members staffed an informational booth which featured preparedness brochures, tracking maps, and a variety of meteorological instruments. Rafael was interviewed by several newspapers and radio stations during the fair, which resulted in significant media coverage (in both English and Spanish). Approximately 5,000 people visited the NWS booth during the fair.

Walt Zaleski, WCM at NWSO Tampa Bay, staffed a preparedness booth at the Hurricane Expo in Crystal River, Florida. Expo attendees picked up over 1,000 preparedness brochures and heat index cards, along with several hundred brochures on thunderstorms, tornadoes, NOAA Weather Radio, and other subjects. The booth also featured videotapes on hurricanes, tornadoes, and severe thunderstorms. Walt and Ron Morales also represented the NWS at the Charlotte County Hurricane Seminar. Both were part of a panel of experts from the public and private sector addressing various aspects of hurricane preparedness. Their presentations concentrated on the local NWS role in providing hurricane-related information to the media, emergency managers, and the public.

Paul Trotter, Frank Revitte, Mike Koziara, and John Guiney of NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge participated in a series of hurricane preparedness "Town Meetings" across southeastern Louisiana. The meetings were sponsored by local television stations and included City and Parish officials, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, media personalities, and (on occasion) members of the 53rd Weather Reconaissance Squadron. Attendance at the meetings has been mixed, but the NWSFO staff reports that important information was provided at all of the meetings.

Jim Lushine, WCM at NWSFO Miami, presented a talk on hurricane forecasting at the South Florida Hurricane Conference. The conference was attended by about 600 representatives of government and business. Jim's presentation included an overview of track forecasting, intensity estimates and forecasting, uncertainties involved in tropical prediction, and cooperation between TPC/NHC and the local NWS offices.

PARTNERSHIP WITH THE HEARING IMPAIRED. NWSFO Tulsa MIC Lans Rothfusz and WCM Steve Piltz have developed a partnership with the Tulsa Chapter of the International Police Relations Council for the Deaf. Steve provided a recent briefing on meteorology and communications to Council members and others in the hearing-impaired community. After the meeting, Steve and ESA Isaiah Daniels located a surplus computer and arranged for its transfer to the Council. A subsequent letter from the IPRCD to the NWSFO thanked the staff for "taking time to care about the deaf citizens in our community."

EAST TENNESSEE MEDIA WORKSHOPS. NWSO Knoxville/Tri-Cities recently conducted a series of three media workshops. One program was held at the NWSO in Morristown, while the others were held in the Bristol and Chattanooga areas, respectively. NWSO staff participating in the workshop were MIC Jerry McDuffie, WCM Howard Waldron, SOO Steve Hunter, SH Brian Boyd, DAPM Craig Carpenter, Forecaster Terry Getz, and Intern Joanne LaBounty. Media, emergency managers, and representatives from the Tennessee Valley Authority were in attendance. Topics covered at the workshops included NWS products, WSR-88D examples, climatology, hydrology, and AWIPS.

TORNADOES ON-LINE. NWSO Amarillo WCM Doug Crowley reports that their office was the first to participate in the Discovery Channel's Internet-based Tornado Talk. During the week-long project, forecasters from the NWSO accessed the Tornado Talk page and answered questions from across the country. The NWSO staff found this to be an enlightening experiment which gave them another avenue to reach the public.

HANDS-ON SPOTTER TRAINING. NWSO Corpus Christi WCM John Cole had a chance to provide some "hands-on" training during a recent spotter training session. About halfway through the program, a thunderstorm gust front blew through the area. This gave John an opportunity not only to describe thunderstorm structure firsthand, but to demonstrate the severe weather reporting network in south-central Texas.

SCHOOL OUTREACH. NWSO Amarillo SOO Rich Wynne and Intern Fred Zeigler participated in a city-wide safety fair. The fair was designed for elementary school-age children and stressed all aspects of safety. Other participants included the Amarillo Police and Fire Departments. The attendees at the fair were asked to tour all of the booths and listen to a safety talk from the participating agencies. After the talk, the students were given a "game ticket" which gave the attendees a chance to win prizes at the fair's conclusion.


HSD HOSTS OTHER HSD GUESTS.Central Region HSD staff members Ken King (Chief) and Noreen Schwein (Field Applications/Development Hydrologist) and Eastern Region HSD staff members Sol Summer (Chief) and Peter Gabrielson (Deputy Chief) visited Southern Region the week of June 9. The purpose of the visit was to exchange information on various hydrologic programs and possible future changes in those programs.

TECH MEMO.Steve Drillette (service hydrologist NWSFO Lubbock) and Lance Goehring (hydrologic focal point NWSO Amarillo) recently finished their work on Technical Memorandum NWS SR-189 titled, "Wolf Creek Flood of September 17-19." This event is unique in many aspects and its reading would be of great benefit to all field staff responsible for issuing hydrologic watches and warnings.


Palmer Update.Recent Palmer Drought Index values indicate wetter than normal soil conditions prevail over parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. Much of the Southeast, including Florida, is near normal while the northwest corner of New Mexico is experiencing drier than normal conditions. Albuquerque senior service hydrologist Ed Polasko reports above average precipitation amounts fell across much of northern New Mexico in May. Tallies included 3.13 inches at Red River (200% of monthly normal), 1.98 inches at Ghost Ranch (233% of monthly normal) and 2.09 inches at Cerro (243% of monthly normal).

Arklatex Flooding.Service hydrologist Craig Ross (NWSO Shreveport) reveals that the Shreveport HSA received below normal May precipitation in the west with above normal rain in the east. Flooding was reported in northeast Texas as three to six inches of rain fell during the first two days of the month. The Caddo Lake area received the most pronounced flooding as 30 unstilted homes, several camps, and some secondary roadways were flooded. Preliminary damage estimates are in the $100,000 range.


SHIMS Success Stories.Several field offices have reported little or no problems in switching over from SHIMS 4.02 to SHIMS 4.11. This most recent changeover has seemingly been the easiest yet. Of course, those offices operating with or soon to receive AWIPS need not make the change.

Hydrology Seminar Update. Hydrologic focal point Lance Goehring (NWSO Amarillo) gave a hydrologic seminar to the Amarillo staff titled, "A tour of the Panhandle's Hydrologic Sites." We wrote this up in the last issue of Topics, but discovered additional interesting information related to his talk. Lance used video he shot of various river gage sites shown on a television monitor, while an overhead projection screen simultaneously displayed E-19-type data on another screen. This allowed the staff to physically view the sites while noting critical stages on a separate screen. To top off the multi-media extravaganza, Lance played a nature audio cassette as background music. Spielberg, look out!

Field Work. Bob Carle, senior service hydrologist (NWSO Tallahassee) worked with USGS staff to move the Newton, Alabama, river gage to a newer, safer bridge several hundred yards upstream. The old site had become a safety concern, and the 60 year old intake pipes on the gage house were rusting and clogging rendering unreliable readings during periods of rapidly rising water. Enough interest was generated by the move that Bob conducted one television and two newspaper interviews. Two weeks later, Bob gave a Skywarn talk to 19 ham radio operators in Albany, Georgia.

Active in San Angelo. Hydrologic focal point Amy McCullough (NWSO San Angelo) had a busy month of May. She drafted and transmitted a PNS for the upcoming transfer of Haskell and Throckmorton counties into the San Angelo HSA, and later updated the station hydrologic services manual to reflect the change. She attended a meeting with the Lower Colorado River Authority regarding the addition of two NWR transmitters in the San Angelo HSA. Amy completed a hydrology module required of forecasters at NWSO SJT, upgraded to the newest version of SHIMS (4.11), and obtained five-letter identifiers for new DCPs in the NWSO San Angelo HSA. Meanwhile several flash flood events swept across the area keeping her and the rest of the NWSO San Angelo staff hopping.

Successful Survey. Service hydrologist Brian Boyd (NWSO Morristown) completed a survey designed to help his staff understand the concerns each county in their HSA has regarding excessive rains and flooding. The response has been quite favorable with the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) actually requesting copies of all the surveys completed. TEMA even requested a list of the counties that did not respond so they could obtain their responses. Brian says TEMA hinted they might make the completion of the survey a requirement for all counties in Tennessee.


LMRFC Hosts Calibration Workshop. On June 2-6, LMRFC hosted a workshop on calibrating the Sacramento Soil Moisture Accounting Model. Mike Smith of the Hydrologic Research Lab and Eric Anderson, retired from the NWS and a leading authority on hydrologic modeling, led the workshop that covered topics from the new Hydrologic Data Browser, to retrieving historical data, to the Interactive Calibration Program (ICP). In addition to the LMRFC staff, the following were also in attendance: Norm Bingham of NERFC; Eric Jones and Julie Jones of OHRFC; Mike Pierce and Jeff McMurphy of ABRFC; and Jonathan Atwell and Tom Wallace of SERFC. The week consisted of morning classroom sessions on modelling and data processing, with afternoon sessions working on the LMRFC computers to test out and use the procedures learned during the morning sessions.

WGRFC Hosts IB&WC Meeting. The annual pre-flood season meeting between NWS offices serving the Rio Grande Basin and the International Boundary and Water Commission was held Wednesday, June 11, at the WGRFC in Fort Worth. Attendees from NWSOs Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Midland and El Paso, the NWSFO in San Antonio, and Southern Region HSD met with employees from the U.S. and Mexican operations of the IB&WC to discuss water supply, water management, data collection, and coordination issues.

The meeting was preceded by a two and a half hour seminar given by NWSFO San Antonio senior service hydrologist John Patton. John's seminar focused on significant Texas floods over the past 100 years, and was attended by a roomful of very impressed guests. Thanks, John, for a great talk and thanks, WGRFC and NWSFO Fort Worth, for hosting a day's worth of visitors!


GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT.The following appeared in the May 8, 1997 Lubbock Avalanche Journal, and was written by Michael Sommermeyer. We'll just let it speak for itself, except to add Great Job, Lubbock!

Lubbock Weather Office Provides Instant Weather Information

Searching the Internet for the latest and best uses of the World Wide Web often leads me back home. After a wind gust blew my storage shed into my neighbor's yard, I concluded I needed a little more warning about such weather events. Frankly I wanted to know how this could have happened. Since the weatherman was not on my television at the time, I turned to the Web and found a very surprising wealth of weather information in my own backyard. The National Weather Service Office in Lubbock has created what it calls "West Texas Quick Weather." Besides offering satellite and radar images, the site offers a page of educational links that led me to some answers about wind, and why it sometimes lifts things off their foundations.

In fact, the educational information alone could have kept me quite busy for a couple of months. However, the most intriguing part of the site was its ability to show a storm in progress as it moves across the South Plains. Current storm warnings and watches change on the screen as a thunderstorm moves across the region, while a current radar map shows the path of the storm. Reloading the page refreshes the data, so the information is available as fast as the National Weather Service meteorologists issue their warnings and forecasts. A detailed list of tornado and thunderstorm warnings round out this ample supply of weather maps, forecasts and other information. The site also contains a lot of information that only a meteorologist could love, but overall, it is very interesting and provides quite an education into the mechanics of weather.

Most of the credit for this page goes to Tim Doggett, a postdoctoral fellow at Texas Tech University who also happens to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). Doggett has created a page that is easy to navigate and full of useful information. The Quick Weather page can be found at and is found under the button "Weather Data."

NSF YOUNG SCHOLARS VISIT NWSFO JACKSON. Jackson State University's Meteorology program, headed by Dr. Paul Croft, again hosted a Young Scholar's Program of the National Science Foundation through the month of June. On Wednesday, June 11, NWSFO Jackson conducted a three and one-half hour program for 12 Young Scholars from Jackson area high schools interested in meteorology. Bill Knight (DAPM) was the master of ceremonies, with Greg Garrett (FIC), Pat Brown (forecaster), Rusty Pfost (SOO), Tom Thompson (SH), and Jim Butch (WCM), participating. The Young Scholars viewed videotapes on the NWS and weather, took part in discussions on weather careers and education, and examined Doppler radar products of tornadic thunderstorms and Hurricane Erin. The program was culminated by Lynn Gilmore (HMT) helping the scholars with a rawinsonde balloon release.

SPC SEMINAR AT JACKSON.Steve Corfidi of NCEP/Storm Prediction Center in Norman visited NWSFO Jackson on June 12-13 and presented results from his MS thesis (Penn State) on the subject of the movement of mid-latitude MCCs. His work is the basis for "Corfidi Vectors" that are on meta files from the RUC and Eta models at the NWSFO. Steve also discussed related case studies. Visitors for the seminar included several attendees from NWSFOs Birmingham, New Orleans Area and Memphis, as well as Navy Meridian and WAPT-TV. While in town, Steve was also the featured speaker at a dinner meeting of the Jackson chapter of the AMS, where he discussed operations and plans for the Storm Prediction Center.

A BUSMAN'S VACATION.During a recent vacation trip "back East" Bernard N. Meisner (SSD) presented seminars on GOES 8/9/10 Imagery and Derived Products at NWSFO Pittsburgh and Eastern Region Headquarters. Bernard met with Bob Davis at NWSFO Pittsburgh to review recent activities concerning the AMBER flash flood warning program. (Bernard's alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, has taken an interest in the AMBER program.) Bernard reviewed inter-regional coordination and discussed topics of mutual interest with members of Eastern Region SSD during his visit there.

SMG ACTIVITIES.MIC Frank Brody, Richard Lafosse, and Tim Oram from the Spaceflight Meteorology Group at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston visited the Kennedy Space Center and NWSO Melbourne last month. They met with NASA/KSC, NASA Headquarters, Patrick AFB and NWSO Melbourne staff to negotiate tasks and plans of the Applied Meteorology Unit. The AMU provides applied research and development support to spaceflight operations at the Cape and Houston. The NWS participates in AMU taskings through the SMG and NWSO Melbourne. While at the Cape, Frank and his staff provided an overview of SMG operations for the KSC chapter of the American Meteorological Society. The SMG group also visited the NWSO for familiarization with WDSS and GARP applications.

SEVERE WEATHER FOLLOW-UP AT JACKSONVILLE. On May 27, northeast Florida and southeast Georgia experienced a severe weather episode which resulted in $5 million in damage in and around Jacksonville. Within a few days, the NWSO Jacksonville staff had added an excellent post-storm summary to their homepage. Check it out at What is especially nice about their report is that it contains not only a summary of products used and actions provided by the NWSO, but it also includes textbook graphics to illustrate and explain events. The sooner this kind of information can make it onto NWS Web sites, the better, in terms of further enhancing our service to users. Great job, Jacksonville.

TROPICAL MODELING AT CITM. An applied research initiative at the FSU Cooperative Institute for Tropical Meteorology (CITM) involves conducting experimental real-time tropical forecasting for the Atlantic Basin. This numerical weather prediction effort is under the direction of CITM Director, Professor T.N. Krishnamurti. Results of the project will be examined in detail, with special attention given to the effects of tropical systems on the southeastern United States. The FSU numerical model used in real-time forecasting invokes Dr. Krishnamurti's physical initialization procedure, which provides a very high skill level for short-term forecasting of tropical rain rates.

Matt Sardi, working with Dr. Krishnamurti, explains that to generate a nowcast of tropical rainfall rates, physical initialization requires global satellite observations of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). SSD worked with John Sapper at NESDIS to help CITM access the OLR data on a daily basis from the NOAA 12 and NOAA 14 polar orbiters. From the data, CITM then derives 6-hourly rainfall by utilizing OLR/rain rate algorithms that were developed at Florida State. Results of this modeling work should soon be available to NCEP/NHC and Florida WFOs.

SPECIAL SOUTHERN REGION ISSUE OF WEATHER AND FORECASTING. A total of fourteen papers authored by NWS Southern Region forecasters and their collaborators have successfully completed the peer review process and will appear in an upcoming special issue of the AMS journal Weather and Forecasting, which is scheduled for publication this September. We've included as a Technical Attachment a complete list of the papers and their authors. These papers represent many of the important problems that our forecasters face, and illustrate the extent of collaborative activities that are under way throughout the region. We appreciate the effort by everyone to make this one of the best WAF special issues yet.



Attached to this issue of Topics are upper air statistics from NCEP for the upper sites in the NWS regions.


Dorothy Martin Poplin, Chief of the Southern Region's Mail Room retired on June 3, 1997, after 21 years with the federal government. Dorothy began her federal service in 1976, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Fort Worth, and in 1980, entered the NWS Southern Region as a mail room clerk. Dorothy or "Tia" (aunt) as some of her friends call her will be missed for her humor and friendship. Dorothy and her husband Frank are currently touring the Northeast US, and will reside in Fort Worth.

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