NOAA 2001-228
Contact: Susan Weaver


As greater numbers of Americans move to coastal areas, the threat of hurricanes and accompanying storm surge present an increasingly serious threat to public safety, said NOAA Acting Administrator Scott Gudes.

In a speech at the 55th Interdepartmental Hurricane Conference on Wednesday in Orlando, Fla., Gudes stressed the importance of timely public awareness to meet this threat.

"The National Weather Service has improved the 72 hour hurricane track forecast accuracy by 50 percent," said Gudes. "Unless the public gets the warnings and takes action, however, the benefits from improved technology are lost."

The 2000 Atlantic hurricane season was the third consecutive year of above-average seasons. Fourteen named storms occurred in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, eight of which became hurricanes and three reached major hurricane strength. The season was the first since 1994 that no hurricane made landfall in the continental United States, although two tropical storms did reach land in Florida – Tropical Storm Gordon and Tropical Storm Helene.

Gudes was named NOAA deputy under secretary for oceans and atmosphere June 1998. With his 17 years of involvement with NOAA as both the Office of Management and Budget budget examiner and Senate Appropriations Committee director for the subcommittee having jurisdiction over NOAA, he is tasked with steering the organization through the present administrative transition period. On January 20, 2001, he was asked to serve as NOAA's acting administrator by the Bush administration.

In his comments to the conference participants, Gudes described the NOAA science and technical resources which are mobilized in support of public safety during the hurricane season. "We have come a long way," he reported, "but we expect to continue to improve. Our goal is to improve the 72 hour forecast error by 2 percent per year through 2005."

"With our partners in the media, the public officials, emergency managers, and the private sector, we will strive to make the 2001 hurricane season the safest yet for the American public."