UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
Fort Worth, Texas

October 15, 1997

SOUTHERN TOPICS


REGIONAL DIRECTOR

On October 3 a luncheon was held in Fort Worth to honor six long-time Southern Region Headquarters staff members who have recently retired. Co-workers, friends and former NWS retirees gathered to say so long to these individuals who have made such a significant impact on the region as well as the National Weather Service. Their careers epitomized the spirit of public service, and I know all of their friends region-wide will join me in wishing them well in their retirement endeavors. Pictured below (left to right) are Marsha Spencer (SSD/HSD), Jerry Wolfe (SOD), Dorothy Martin Poplin (ADMIN), Don Blevins (SOD), Melissa "Missy" Perales (MSD), and Max White (MSD).

SERFC, HIC SELECTION. I have selected John Feldt to be the Hydrologist in Charge (HIC) at the Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) in Peachtree City, GA. John will assume his duties at SERFC effective November 23, 1997.

John began his NWS Career as a hydrologist at the MBRFC in 1977. From 1979 through 1991, he was a forecaster/lead forecaster at WSFOs St. Louis, Louisville, Milwaukee, and Kansas City. During part of this time period, from 1985 through 1989, John was on temporary detail as WSR-88D Operations Test Manager. From March 1991 until August 1992 John was DMIC and then Kansas Area Manager at WSFO Topeka. Since August 1992, he has been Iowa Area Manager/MIC at WSFO Des Moines.

During his tenure at WSFO Des Moines, John provided the leadership through the Great Flood of 1993. John was also instrumental in the implementation of the Advance Hydrologic Prediction System (AHPS) pilot project in the Des Moines River basin in the Spring of 1997.

We extend our congratulations to John on his selection for this important position, and wish him a long and rewarding career at SERFC.

HONORS. I'm pleased that Southern Region employees garnered two of the National Weather Association awards this year. They are:

George Wilken (SOO, NWSFO Little Rock) received the Individual Operational Achievement Award for his exceptional work in developing radar procedures which contributed to outstanding warning services for the March 1, 1997 Arkansas tornado outbreak.

Gary Woodall, Jud Ladd and Suzanne (Nichols) Van Cooten (Southern Region Headquarters) for their leadership in developing "Project TWISTER," which for the past several summers has exposed many area high school students and their teachers to realistic tornado warning operations, and in the process broadened their understanding of storm meteorology. (Suzanne is now a HAS forecaster at the Lower Mississippi RFC in Slidell.)

Congratulations to all the recipients, and to the MICs who worked with us to provide the NWA with several other excellent award nominations this year. Those we submitted which were not honored will remain in competition at the NWA for the next two years.

METEOROLOGICAL SERVICES DIVISION

CRS TAKES NWR INTO THE 21ST CENTURY. NWSFO Birmingham's DAPM Dave Wilfing offers the following on his office's impression of the system and some of the unique things they have encountered.

NWSFO Birmingham has been testing the Console Replacement System (CRS) since the first of the year. Very little progress was made at first, mainly due to the instability of the system. Dramatic improvements have been made in the past couple of weeks however, thanks to the efforts of Jae Lee (from NWS Headquarters) and Ray Young (from Charleston, WV).

The process of transforming a text message from AFOS into a voice message that is broadcast over NOAA Weather Radio is very nearly automated at this point. Hourly Weather Roundups, Short Range Forecasts, Traveler's Forecasts, and Weather Summaries, are now being routinely broadcast over NWR without any intervention. We anticipate being able to automate Zone forecast products soon. We have also successfully tested the Console Replacement System's ability to handle Statements and Warnings, and look forward to using CRS during our next severe weather episode.

The automation process is made possible through the use of the "Storm Tracking Or Radio Monitoring Interface," or STORMI. STORMI is a program developed by Ray Young which takes products from AFOS, intended for broadcast over NWR, and puts them in a format that CRS can recognize.

When production units are delivered to other NWS offices, they can expect to spend a good deal of time initially on developing a database that conforms to the NWR programming which is familiar to their listeners. It should be noted that the digitized voice of CRS does not sound human, and while some words may never sound exactly right, the voice is clear and understandable. Hard to pronounce cities, rivers, etc., will have to be phonetically entered into the word pronunciation dictionary. It is recommended that only one or two people from each office be responsible for preparing and updating the dictionary files due to their extremely sensitive nature. Our experience has also demonstrated the importance of backing up all dictionary files, either on floppy or somewhere else on the CRS hard drive. It is much easier to reload the backup files than to retype all the words in your dictionary.

Another area to watch deals with AFOS products that are used for many different situations. For example, a dilemma occurred here with respect to the daily Hazardous Weather Outlook. The HWO is disseminated as a Special Weather Statement, but is not broadcast on NWR. STORMI does not distinguish between SPS products that are and those that are not intended for broadcast. A program was created in PCAFOS that checks all of the Special Weather Statements for the term "Hazardous Weather Outlook." If the batch file doesn't find that particular term, the SPS is forwarded on to STORMI, and subsequently routed to CRS for broadcast. However, if the program encounters the term "Hazardous Weather Outlook," the SPS is stored as a file that STORMI doesn't recognize and the product is not sent to CRS. Of course, each office will have their own unique problems that will take time to overcome, but it will be time well spent!

BAY CITY, TX, NWR. We are continuing to work in partnership with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA). The third LCRA Cooperator NWR went on the air October 15, 1997, in Bay City, TX (WWG-40; 162.425 MHZ; 1000 watts). The Bay City and Galveston NWRs will share a common program originating from NWSO Houston/Galveston. A Texas-size welcome is extended to the 134th SR NWR.

HURRICANE COORDINATION. Although the 1997 Atlantic hurricane season is winding down, Southern Region offices have continued their aggressive preparedness campaigns.

Jim Lushine, WCM at NWSFO Miami, addressed the Florida Emergency Management Association's regional meeting. Approximately 60 representatives of state and local emergency management were in attendance. Jim provided meteorological input to several evacuation scenarios and described events that might complicate a regional evacuation. This is an ongoing series of meetings designed to prepare the officials of south Florida for the next major hurricane event, with the next meeting scheduled for December.

WCM John Cole and the staff of NWSO Corpus Christi participated in a hurricane drill with the Union Carbide Seadrift Plant. The drill was developed by Union Carbide officials, but John provided advice and suggestions regarding the track of the simulated storm and the format of the "TPC" advisories. John reports that the drill was a success, as the Union Carbide officials learned a great deal about their plant and its hurricane emergency operations plan. It was suggested that major plants such as Union Carbide's (which employs about 1,800 people) be incorporated into the statewide hurricane drills when they are conducted.

Frank Revitte, WCM at NWSFO New Orleans/Baton Rouge, represented the NWS at a meeting of the Southeast Louisiana Hurricane Task Force. A total of 60 people attended the meeting, including representatives from 13 Parishes and several state and federal agencies. Primary topics of the meeting included plans for a possible hurricane evacuation study including southeast Louisiana and southern Mississippi, a shelter classification program, and a storm surge animation developed by Louisiana State University.

SCHOOL PREPAREDNESS. Jim Stefkovich, WCM at NWSFO Fort Worth/Dallas, helped develop a disaster plan for a school in Colleyville, Texas. Jim also spoke to several staff members about NOAA Weather Radio, SAME, the NWS severe weather warning process, and the climatology of severe weather in north Texas.

NWSFO Fort Worth/Dallas Forecaster Roland Nunez made a presentation at the Tarrant County Math and Science Symposium. Approximately 60 teachers, representing primary and secondary schools, attended Roland's program. Roland described El Nino and its potential impacts in the north Texas area.

LOCAL SAME ASSISTANCE. Now that the first consumer-grade SAME-capable NWR receivers are in the market, local offices have been proactive in assisting local representatives and the public with programming the receivers. WCMs Walt Zaleski (NWSO Tampa Bay) and Richard May (NWSO San Angelo) and WCO Jerry O'Bryant (WSO Abilene) have distributed reference materials to all of the SAME radio dealers in their areas. Walt and Richard reported that the dealers were appreciative of the information, as some customers have already purchased the radios and requested assistance in programming them.

EL NIÑO IMPACTS. As we move into the fall and winter months, the ongoing El Niño event will receive additional attention. Doug Crowley, WCM at NWSO Amarillo, solicited input from all of the WCMs servicing Texas regarding the impacts of recent El Niño events in their CWAs. Doug compiled this input into a one-page summary which also included a number of Internet links to sites containing information on the El Niño. This article will be submitted to the Texas Division of Emergency Management for publication in their newsletter.

EXTERNAL SUPPORT. Jim Stefkovich, WCM at NWSFO Fort Worth/Dallas, recently met with officials at the Burlington Northern/Santa Fe Railroad Headquarters in Fort Worth. Their facility has 200 dispatchers who are responsible for routing traffic on every track west of the Mississippi River. In this role, they are quite similar to air traffic controllers. As in the airways, the railroad dispatchers have specific weather criteria which require them to slow the flow of traffic or to inspect portions of track. Jim reports that the BN/SF officials were impressed with the products and services provided by the NWS and they hope to strengthen their relationship in the future.

HYDROLOGIC SERVICES DIVISION

SPECIAL GUESTS. Ben Weiger from the office of Hydrology was detailed to HSD October 6-10. Besides helping out at the Region, Ben spent time at the WGRFC. NWSO Tallahassee senior service hydrologist, Bob Carle, will spend the week of October 20-24 on detail at HSD.

SOUTH TEXAS FLOODING. Persistent onshore flow of tropical moisture brought a deluge of rain to parts of the Texas Coastal Bend October 7-13. Parts of Corpus Christi were hardest hit with some sections of the city receiving 30 inches of rain for the event. Widespread flooding resulted in and around the city with evacuations necessary in several surrounding communities. Two young men (13 and 14 years old) perished when they were sucked into storm drains while playing in the flood waters. A number of rivers and creeks exceeded flood stage. The WGRFC and NWSOs Corpus Christi, Houston, Brownsville and NWSFO San Antonio worked diligently to keep loss of life to a minimum.

PUERTO RICO FLOODING. A slow moving tropical wave brought torrential rains to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands October 12-14. Rainfall amounts over the southeastern part of the Island were as high as 13 inches. Numerous roads and bridges were washed out as rivers and creeks became raging torrents. The NWSFO San Juan staff worked long and hard providing the area with timely and accurate watches, warnings and statements during the event.

DRYING UP. Louisiana State Climatologist John Grymes has determined the six week period from late August to early October to be the driest six weeks in Louisiana and southern Mississippi since 1953. September 1997 tied for the driest September since 1899 over the southeast (Louisiana) climatological division, while the east central climatological division experienced its third driest September of record (1953 was the driest with 1995 the second driest). However, a cold front accompanied by widespread showers and thunderstorms moved across the area during the middle of October bringing much needed rainfall.

RIVER FLOODING IN THE EL PASO HSA. Flooding occurred over the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico September 21-22. The El Paso office (with coordination through the NWSFO Albuquerque) issued flood warnings for the Gila River from northern Grant County to the Arizona/New Mexico border. No significant damage or injuries occurred but some camp grounds and roads were impacted.

ANOTHER WET MONTH IN NEW MEXICO. September proved to be another wet month over the Albuquerque HSA. The NWSFO received 2.43" of rain or 243% of normal precipitation for the month with Villanueva registering 5.7" or 438% of normal, Las Vegas reporting 8.41" or 370% of normal and Gran Quivera recording 6.19" or 317% of their normal September rainfall.

PALMER DROUGHT INDEX. The most recent Palmer Drought Index values indicate moderate drought exists over the Lower Mississippi River Valley, southern Georgia, southern Florida, southern Oklahoma and southwestern Texas. Wetter than normal soil moisture values exist over much of New Mexico; parts of western Oklahoma and western Texas; and the tri-state area of Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

NEWS FROM OUR HYDROLOGIC SERVICE AREAS

QPF Idea. Lubbock forecaster Marty Mullen sent a set of GARP files to NWSO Amarillo hydrologic focal point Lance Goehring. The files will allow the Amarillo staff to graphically view a first guess basin average overlaid on state maps.

Lance and NWSFO Lubbock service hydrologist, Steve Drillette, had their Southern Region technical memorandum titled, "The Wolf Creek Flood" accepted as a poster session at the January AMS conference in Phoenix.

Co-(rps) operation. NWSO Nashville service hydrologist, Mike Murphy, recently downloaded software from the OHRFC enabling the Nashville office to display Stage III precipitation estimates on their SAC. Mike is also working to get the Nashville Corps of Engineers (COE) office access to Stage III data. Other NWSO Nashville/COE projects in the works include the creation of a river forecast point at Franklin, TN, on the Harpeth River for which OHRFC will provide support.

Improvements Made. The NWSFO PeachTree City office hosted a meeting with members of Georgia Power. The meeting was held to improve the NWSFO's means of receiving lake level data. Service hydrologist Gary Butler says that NWSFO PeachTree City's Clark Safford wrote a program that will process the lake data (soon to be e:Mailed by Georgia Power) into a SHEF-coded AFOS product (ATLRR1SAV).

More Coordination. NWSFO Albuquerque senior service hydrologist, Ed Polasko, recently coordinated with the USGS and the NWSO Grand Junction to replace a DCP, tipping bucket rain gage, temperature shield and an antenna at the ARCN5 (Archuleta, NM below Navajo Dam) site with newer, USGS-purchased and maintained equipment. The old equipment will be put to use by the Grand Junction NWSO (who owned the equipment) at a site presently without telemetry.

Automated Data Access. NWSFO Little Rock service hydrologist, Steve Bays, met with representatives of the Entergy Corporation to see their automated data collection system and to tour their facilities. He has received station identifiers for the eight rain gages, four stream gages and four lake level gages in their system.

NEWS FROM OUR RIVER FORECAST CENTERS

Tabletop Exercise. WGRFC senior hydrologist Patrick Sneeringer; NWSO El Paso MIC Max Blood and WCM Jack Mercer; and NWSFO Albuquerque's Ed Polasko attended the Mescalero Dam Early Warning System tabletop exercise held near Ruidoso, NM, September 24. Several federal, state and local agencies participated in the exercise designed to allow the agencies an opportunity to review their emergency operations as they relate to flash flooding on the Rio Ruidoso and the possibility of the Mescalero Dam failing. While the dam lies in the El Paso CWA, the majority of damage, and likely fatalities, from a failure would occur in the Albuquerque CWA. The two offices are considering special procedures for handling this scenario.

RFC Visitor. The SERFC hosted Tampa Bay Area service hydrologist, Frank Alsheimer, in September. Frank wrote a memorandum to his staff after the trip highlighting some of the more important topics covered. In short, Frank discussed how critical his office's QPF products are to the hydrologic forecast system in use at the RFC. He suggested including a line or two about their QPF thinking in the AFDs so the HAS personnel can gain more insight into their forecast. Frank also urged his staff to update the QPF when forecasts go astray.

Additionally, Frank's memo covered scheduling at the RFC, the possibility of the RFC running contingent river forecasts, and the importance of quality controlling rain and river data (especially during events).

SCIENTIFIC SERVICES DIVISION

EL NIÑO TRAINING. In response to the continuing demand for information regarding the on-going El Niño and its possible effects, Bernard Meisner is preparing a one-hour El Niño teletraining lesson for Southern Region field offices. The lesson will cover the background of El Niño, effects of past events, and the outlook for the coming winter and spring. Interested offices should coordinate with Bernard or Susan Beckwith in SSD to participate in one of the four planned teletraining sessions. The dates and times are:

Tues, October 28 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. CST

Wed, October 29 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. CST

Wed, November 5 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. CST

Thur, November 6 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. CST

Note: To participate, offices must have successfully completed SSD's "Introduction to Audiographics" with Bernard or Susan, the purpose of which is to introduce and check out the teletraining equipment. If that has not been done, contact either of these individuals at your soonest convenience to schedule that session.

PRECIPITATION PROCESSING AT THE RFC. The Web site maintained by the Arkansas Basin RFC in Tulsa contains an interesting summary of point precipitation measurement, areal rainfall estimation, and what all of that has to do with hydrologic modeling. The summary contains several figures which will clarify the ways in which point rainfall observations or radar estimates are converted into mean areal precipitation values for use in hydrologic modeling. We recommend a review. The ABRFC page is accessible through the Southern Region Web site (www.srh.noaa.gov).

A related summary is included as a technical attachment to the Topics this week. Keith Stellman and John Kuhn (Lower Mississippi RFC, Slidell) developed a mean areal precipitation (MAP) climatology for two Lower Mississippi basins. A knowledge of climatological occurrences of 6- and 24-hr MAP amounts will be helpful to forecasters as they prepare their precipitation forecasts (QPFs). Note in particular how the size of a basin affects the relative occurrences of MAP amounts.

INCLUDING QPFs IN PUBLIC PRODUCTS. Precipitation amount forecasts are not a required part of routine products issued by the WFOs; however, since offices are now producing basin-average QPFs to support the hydrology program, there is no reason why similar information could not be included in statements or short-term forecasts. With the concurrence of SRH, NWSFO Little Rock recently conducted an experiment to evaluate the idea of including QPFs routinely as part of the public zone products (ZFPs). Little Rock forecaster John Robinson summarized the experiment and we have included his report as a technical attachment this week.

One note of caution: care should be taken to ensure that the use of QPF amounts does not lead to possible misinterpretation of accompanying probability (PoP) forecasts, especially when the possibility of rain in the forecast area (the areal probability) is less than 100%.

CSTAR MEETING. The NWS Office of Meteorology hosted the second annual Collaborative Science, Technology and Applied Research (CSTAR) Program meeting last week at NWS Headquarters. Representatives from the half-dozen or so NOAA/NWS cooperative institutes participated, along with several individuals whose research activities have been supported by COMET. The meeting was intended to share results of on-going research sponsored by the NWS, discuss science priorities for the coming years, and craft a plan for how limited NWS resources can be best used to foster collaborative activities among our offices and the science research community.

Profs. Kevin Kloesel (FSU/CITM) and Dick Orville (Texas A&M/CIAMS) did an excellent job again this year describing how effectively the Southern Region cooperative institutes have worked with offices across the region. (To graphically make the point, Dr. Orville took along copies of posters which he helped forecasters prepare for the recent AMS Radar Conference. They were eye-catching, but they also helped support the special Jarrell tornado session that was part of the CSTAR meeting.) NWSFO San Juan SOO, Shawn Bennett, and former COMET post-doc at NWSFO Lubbock, Tim Doggett, also participated in the meeting.

SYSTEMS OPERATIONS DIVISION

SYSTEMS INTEGRATION BRANCH

FINAL NTROUTER FROM NWSH. Southern Region Headquarters first implemented a beta copy of NTROUTER for cc:Mail that Leon Minton downloaded from the Lotus Web page back in January of 1997. After initial testing, Leon worked with the ESAs to implement it at the field cc:Mail post offices. It has eliminated most long distance telephone calls and provides message exchanges with the WFOs every ten minutes. As the first step in upgrading to the new cc:Mail software, Linda Weaver at NWSH will be sending the final "official" version of NTROUTER to Leon for testing and implementation throughout Southern Region. Following this will be the roll out of the next cc:Mail client which can see both the current old cc:Mail database structure and the newer Release 8 structure which is the ultimate goal of the upgrade process. Many users are already receiving WordPerfect 8 document attachments that cannot be viewed by the current cc:Mail for Windows client viewers, so the upgrades will be a welcome event.

THE LATEST NEWS. In the last issue of Southern Topics, WFO/RFC Atlanta was inadvertently left off the list of those sites included in the "next 18." Atlanta will also be waiting for the Secretary of Commerce to decide on the deployment of AWIPS Build 3.0. In other news, the OT&E for Build 3.0 will be starting the week of October 20 at Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, and Taunton, MA. More sites will be added as they receive their systems over the next few weeks.

HAVE YOU SEEN IT? In the last issue of Southern Topics, we mentioned the capabilities of Build 3.0. If you have not had the opportunity to view the D2D (Display 2-Dimensional), try the WFO-Advanced Homepage. You can get to it from the Southern Region AWIPS page (currently under SOD) and go to the links. Once in the FSL WFO Advanced page, go to the D2D User's Guide. Go to the bottom of the page and you will see a list of figures. Check out Figure 1 and Figure 5. Figure 1 is the workstation with the three monitors -- a word of caution -- AWIPS does not use a touchpad! Figure 5 is what the D2D looks like with the five panes.

LOCAL APPLICATIONS. AWIPS is designed with local applications in mind. 700 MB will be available on AWIPS at each office. The system will come with a variety of software including FORTRAN, C++, Informix, NetCDF, TCL/TK, Perl, LDM, and GEMPLT. The Techniques Development Lab (TDL) has put together the Application Integration Framework Manual which is a guideline for application development. Each office will receive one and it will reside at the TDL Local Applications Homepage available through AWIPS.

OBSERVATIONS AND FACILITIES BRANCH

BUILD 10 STATUS. The PUP group completed unit testing of the thirty-seven Build 10 PUP modifications, and is continuing the unit testing of the two remaining RPG modifications. The RPG group continues development and testing on twenty-eight changes. Testing has been completed on twenty-four approved changes. Unit testing continues on CCR NA95-33502, RPG Status to RMS, and CCR NA95-33504, RPG Control to RMMS. Development and unit testing continues on the following CCRs: NA95-21503, Replace the Existing Tornado Vortex Signature Algorithm with NSSL TDA and NA96-20101, TPMS Monitoring. Using the OSF test bed in FAA redundant configuration, the RMS control of the RPG was tested last week. Portions of the test were successful but problems remain. More control testing is scheduled next week.

The RPG group is also working on narrowband reconfiguration procedures that will need to be performed after Build 10 is loaded at a site, including increasing to 14.4k baud and setting the proper satellite options.

TRANSITION POWER AND MAINTENANCE SHELTER. On Tuesday, October 1, 1997 SRH Facilities attended the first Transition Power and Maintenance Shelter (TPMS) coordination meeting in Silver Spring. Various officials from OSO/OSF attended the meeting along with representatives from the other mainland Regional Headquarters. The purpose of the meeting was to provide preliminary information regarding the TPMS contract.

Exide Electronics Corporation was the successful contractor. Exide will team with Fiberbond Corporation, Precision Power Inc., and Lowe North to provide and install the rotary UPS unit and maintenance shelter at the WSR-88D site. This UPS unit will prevent power loss to the radar similar to the way the General Power unit does for the WFO building, and the shelter will provide additional equipment storage and electronic maintenance space. Exide is currently completing a major contract with FAA for static UPSs throughout the country and plans to use this existing workforce during this contract.

Installation of TPMS should begin in the spring of 1998. Exide is scheduled to produce and install the units at a rate of one per week. The total number of radar sites including FAA and DOD is 157. The initial production contract is for seventy units. NWS will purchase additional units later.

Exide will need three weeks on site to complete the installation. They will install the building, concrete pad, relocate the ground grid, move the fence, and connect the Rotary UPS. This is to be a complete turnkey operation. The maximum down time of the WSR-88D radar is no more than eight hours on a single day. Normal down time should be around 3-4 hours. All construction and outages will be coordinated with the local office.

After the installation, Exide will provide two hours on-site training for up to four people before leaving the site and leave a training video at the site. A training course at the Training Center in Kansas City will provide additional training as part of an existing WSR-88D course.

The Region provided OSF a list of SRH offices in priority order almost two years ago. We listed the remote RDAs (non-collocated with WFO) as our highest priority sites. After the remote sites we clustered the remaining sites based on geographic location to reduce travel and simplify logistics. OSF combined our list with the other regions to come up with the delivery schedule. A preliminary schedule should be available within 60 days.

As far as who is going to maintain and repair this new piece of equipment, we do not know at this time. OSF and OSO are looking at the SFT or NEXRAD ET as possibilities. Also, the Exide contract does provide for maintenance and repair. Maintenance, along with other technical issues, remains open. As additional information becomes available, we will distribute it.

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