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November 24, 2006

What I'm Thankful For

On this Thanksgiving day, I hope all of you are enjoying sunny skies, good food, and are surrounded by the love of family and friends.

I am certainly thankful for my wife, two children, my family, friends, the great people I get to work with every day, and the beautiful Earth we have been given.

I am also very thankful for meteorologists this Thanksgiving. They provide a service that is often under-appreciated. Their work can and does save lives. I know that people sometimes like to kid that they would like to be a meteorologist because they'd like to be in a job where they could be right only half the time and not get fired. Understanding the complex dynamics of the atmosphere and its interaction with land and sea, and predicting out many days in advance takes a lot of skill, a lot of brains, and a lot of dedication.

I will never forget the National Weather Service bulletin that went out last year on August 28. It was right before Hurricane Katrina made landfall. It began "...DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED...". It was followed by:

.HURRICANE KATRINA...A MOST POWERFUL HURRICANE WITH UNPRECEDENTED STRENGTH...RIVALING THE INTENSITY OF HURRICANE CAMILLE OF 1969. MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS...PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL...LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED.

Reading the bulletin sent shivers down my spine. I've been very involved with the weather as an amateur and in my business (ForecastWatch), but I'd never read anything like that. It was unprecedented. It scared me. I cannot imagine how it made people in the path of the storm feel. But however they felt, that strongly worded statement saved lives.

Don't take my word for it, though. The government report on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina titled "A Failure of Initiative: Final Report of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina" was very critical of many areas of our federal government. But it had this to say about the weather forecasters:

We reaffirmed what we already suspected — at least two federal agencies passed Katrina's test with flying colors: the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center. Many who escaped the storm's wrath owe their lives to these agencies' accuracy. This hearing provided a backdrop for the remainder of our inquiry. We repeatedly tried to determine how government could respond so ineffectively to a disaster that was so accurately forecast.

In addition to the National Weather Service, Accuweather, The Weather Channel, and other private sector meteorologists helped warn citizens and helped in the response to the devastation. The Weather Channel, for example, created a message board for people looking for information about loved ones to connect, and gave more than $1 million dollars to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for all meteorologists whether employed by the government or the private sector, and for all they do to help us plan our weekend, and keep us safe from weather disasters.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 
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