NOAA 2000-235
Contact: Delores Clark


The nation's newest weather forecast office is being dedicated today in Tiyan, Guam, announced the National Weather Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This is truly a state-of-the-art facility," said John Jones, deputy assistant administrator for weather services. "It is a showcase of advanced weather technology along with many environmentally sustainable and energy efficient features that were carefully designed for the area."

Guam, a U.S. territory in the western north Pacific more than 8,000 miles from Washington, D.C., is one of several areas with weather offices operating outside of the U.S. mainland, in addition to those in Hawaii and Alaska. Other offices are in Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. The National Weather Service officially took over public weather forecasting and warnings in Guam when the military downsized in 1995. NWS occupied space in the Guam airport control tower building prior to the completion of the new forecast office this month.

"Typhoon alley" is a term not taken lightly by the citizens of Guam. Although the last two years have been relatively quiet, there is an average of 31 tropical storms in the western north Pacific every year with one or more affecting the Island. Guam has been impacted by 16 typhoons since 1970 and devastated by four since 1960. Super Typhoon Paka with 150 mph sustained winds and gusts to 185 mph, was the last to hit Guam, in December 1997. Paka passed over the island, causing an estimated $500 million in property damages but no fatalities. "It was a combination of early warnings, an experienced public, and Guam's strong building codes that minimized the potential devastation," said John Miller, meteorologist in charge of the Tiyan office. "We lost power as the storm made landfall but fortunately, the Honolulu Forecast Office and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center served as backup to continue issuing information. We shouldn't have that power problem in the new office."

Indeed, many upgrades and safety features were factored into the new building. Made out of steel-reinforced concrete, it was built to withstand winds of up to 194 mph and resist earthquakes. The facility has two back-up generators which are sheltered. Before, the generator was outside and subject to the environment. The building also has shutters to cover the windows and doors during typhoons. Satellite antennas are enclosed in domes for extra protection.

The facility has many unique features planned to conserve energy and protect the environment. It was designed to save approximately 22 percent in annual energy costs. The main structure is oriented to minimize afternoon sun. Daylight is enhanced and controlled by the use of glass block, curved ceiling surfaces, deep overhangs, light colored paint, and window blinds. The lighting and air conditioning systems were carefully chosen and energy factors were considered in the selection of office equipment, furniture, kitchen appliances, solar hot water heater, and generator components.

Other environmentally sustainable features include the landscaping, flooring and ceiling tiles, mildew-retardant paneling, and recycled products. Architect and project managers for the facility are Design Partners Inc., Honolulu, and the Pacific Division Naval Facilities Engineering Command. Steven Winter Associates of Connecticut and Washington, D.C., served as energy and lighting consultants; and the facility was built by Black Construction Corp. headquartered in Guam.

As with other weather forecast offices, the facility will operate 24 hours a day, providing hourly forecasts and severe weather warnings to the citizens of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. The continental U.S. will easily fit into Guam's geographic area of responsibility, which ranges from the international dateline to 130 degree east longitude. The office issues many products, including aviation, marine, high surf, flash flood, and high winds forecasts, climate information, and tropical cyclone watches and warnings, to mention a few.

The facility is one of the last of the new forecast offices to be built as part of the National Weather Service's $4.5 billion modernization program. The operations will integrate components of the most advanced weather technology in the world, including satellite imagery, sophisticated weather computer models, radar data, and surface observations to bring the best forecasts available to the citizens in the western Pacific.