NOAA 98-R214

Contact:  Stephanie Kenitzer       FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first tornado forecast ever issued in the United States. More than half a century later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service issues hundreds of severe weather watches and warnings daily to protect life and property.

On the evening of March 25, 1948, a tornado roared through Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., causing considerable damage and a few injuries, but no fatalities because of a bold tornado forecast issued by two Air Force officers. A few hours earlier, Air Force Captain Robert C. Miller and Major Ernest J. Fawbush had correctly predicted that atmospheric conditions were ripe for tornadoes in the vicinity of Tinker AFB. The tornado left $6 million in damage on Tinker AFB, tearing down power lines, tossing fighter planes on their sides, and damaging the main runway. Fortunately, however, there were no fatalities, due in part to the advanced forecast.

"Fifty years after that first tornado forecast, our National Weather Service and other environmental Services are pioneering and providing lifesaving techniques and technology in the fine tradition of the two Air Force officers we honor today," said D. James Baker, under secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere, during a ceremony held at Tinker AFB today marking the anniversary. "We're proud to acknowledge this Air Force achievement and want to emphasize the long-term continuing cooperation of the Air Force and NOAA in providing weather services."

Central to the weather service's advanced technology is a highly trained staff, a nationwide network of Doppler radar systems, new weather satellites and powerful computers that can predict atmospheric conditions with great accuracy. Much of the sophisticated watch and warning program in place today is the result of 50 years of research.

More information on the historic forecast is available on the Internet at