FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Frank Lepore
|NOAA News Releases 2002
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Less than a year ago, Tropical Storm Allison brought a deluge of heavy rains and deadly floods from Houston to Louisiana. In the end, Allison became the costliest tropical storm in U.S. history, causing nearly $5 billion in damages, and 41 deaths last June. That grim reality is what a team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters is trying to help Gulf Coast residents avoid during the 2002 hurricane season with an awareness tour, which runs May 6-10.
"We are aggressively pursuing an education campaign this year through our Gulf Coast Hurricane Awareness Tour," said NOAA's National Weather Service Director Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly USAF (ret.). "Working with our emergency management partners in federal, state and local government, the media and the public we can save lives through education," he said. The tour of NOAA hurricane-hunting aircraft and NOAA hurricane experts reaches out to everyone in harms way from grade schoolers to high level officials.
"Before hurricane season begins, we want to sound the alarm that these storms can strike the Gulf Coast with almost epic-like devastation," said Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami, and a member of the awareness tour.
Mayfield will be joined on the five-day, five-city swing through the Gulf Coast states, by other hurricane experts and crew members of NOAA's hurricane-hunting aircraft. The awareness team will meet with local officials, media and the public in: Corpus Christi, Texas; Lafayette, La.; Lake Charles, La.; New Orleans, La. and Atlanta, Ga.
"We're hoping to reach as many people as possible to ensure they understand, respect and respond to the hurricane threat," Mayfield said. He added an increase in the U.S. coastal population during the last several decades "means many more residents now live along a vulnerable coastline. About 85-percent of these residents have never experienced the direct effects of a major hurricane (Category 3 or Higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale)."
The destructive dynamics of a hurricane's "storm surge," the sea water pushed ashore by the storm's winds, remains the greatest potential threat, Mayfield said. But rain induced flooding may prove as damaging and disruptive farther inland according to a study by Edward Rappaport, National Hurricane Center deputy director. "Over the last 30 years, inland flooding was the most deadly hurricane component," Rappaport wrote.
"Many people think it's just hurricanes that carry the danger and destruction, but Tropical Storm Allison put that myth to rest. It's important for residents not to focus solely on a storm's winds. The rains can kill, too," said Bill Proenza, NOAA Weather Service southern region director.
The 2001 Atlantic Hurricane season generated 15 named storms, including nine hurricanes- four classified as major. The United States has gone two years without a land-falling hurricane.
The Lockheed Orion WP-3D hurricane hunter aircraft, carrying the forecasters and other specialists, serves as a research tool in understanding hurricanes. Data gathered by the four-engine turboprop aircraft, along with aircraft of the U.S. Air Force 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, are vital in analyzing a hurricane's position, intensity and track. On this year's tour, the aircraft serves as a classroom for area school children and the general public. The aircraft will be open for public and/or media inspection on the following dates and locations.
NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.