NOAA 2001-R248
Contact: Ron Trumbla


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the Department of Commerce, will present the "Mark Trail/NOAA Weather Radio" public service award to Beebe, Ark. Public Schools Superintendent Kieth Williams at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., May 23. Responding to alerts from a NOAA Weather Radio in his office, Williams quickly evacuated a school gymnasium in the path of a deadly tornado – saving many lives.

Now in its fifth year, the awards program honors individuals, organizations and states that use or provide weather radio receivers and transmitters to save lives and property. Fifteen award recipients will be recognized this year.

On January 21, 1999, Williams received a tornado watch alert on his NOAA Weather Radio. He continued to monitor the radio and commercial broadcasts throughout the day. When the National Weather Service office in Little Rock issued a tornado warning, Williams immediately canceled a regional girl's basketball game and ordered the evacuation of more than 300 people from the gymnasium.

Shortly afterwards, the twister ripped through the gymnasium reducing it to a pile of rubble. Because of Williams actions, by that time, the building was empty. The hundreds of players and fans who might have been trapped there, were taking cover in their homes.

"It would be difficult to think of a better example of how good detection and forecasting, combined with the NOAA Weather Radio's early warning alerts and the appropriate public response – saves lives," said Bill Proenza, director of the weather service for the southern U.S.

The Mark Trail awards are named for the nationally syndicated comic strip character which serves as the campaign symbol for the NOAA Weather Radio program. Since 1995, Jack Elrod, writer and illustrator of Mark Trail, and King Features Syndicate have been strong advocates for publicizing severe weather safety through the use of Weather Radios.

Elrod's Mark Trail character has been educating the public about the environment since 1950. He has taught readers to appreciate the beauty of nature while respecting its hazards. In recent years, the strip's education message has included the fact that anyone listening to NOAA Weather Radio has instant access to the same life saving weather reports and emergency information provided to meteorologists and emergency personnel.

NOAA Weather Radios are manufactured under a variety of brand names and are available at most electronics stores.