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Contact: Marilu Trainor
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COMMERCE DEPARTMENT AWARDS BRONZE MEDAL TO GRAND RAPIDS WEATHER FORECASTER FOR OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded a Bronze Medal to Randy Graham, science and operations officer, at NOAA National Weather Service in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was recognized for an extraordinary effort to support a first time partnership between the NOAA Weather Service, private sector and academic meteorologists for weather forecasting during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency of the Commerce Department.
NOAA also awarded medals to other NOAA Weather Service staff who were members of the Weather Support Group during the Games. Graham joined several members of the group who attended a ceremony held today at the University of Maryland in Adelphi, Md. The awards were presented by Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
On April 5, 2001, the Salt Lake Organizing Committee (SLOC) for the XIX Olympic Winter Games announced a unique partnership formed among the NOAA Weather Service, the University of Utah and thirteen private meteorologists under contract to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. Forecasters from Hill Air Force Base also joined the Weather Support Group and provided weather expertise during the Games. Jim Campbell, NOAA Weather Service Western Region’s deputy regional director, and Dr. Larry Dunn, meteorologist in charge of the Salt Lake City Weather Forecast Office, led the NOAA Weather Service efforts during the Games.
“For the first-time ever, U.S. government and private meteorologists as well as academic experts shared forecast responsibilities during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. The weather team included more than 50 people who collectively had more than 700 years of meteorology experience in complex terrain,” said Vickie Nadolski, NOAA Weather Service Western Region director.
“The forecasters had to prepare for anything Mother Nature could throw at Utah including heavy snow, fog, high winds, air quality, warm temperatures, rain, or avalanches. They also worked closely with agencies responsible for overall Games’ security,” she said. “The partnership was a tremendous success and will be used as a model for future Games.”
“We had Winter Games’ officials, venue managers, service providers, athletes, and the general public making critical decisions every day based on the weather forecasts we provided,” said Dunn.
Campbell added, “The Weather Support Group established the model partnership for showing that government, private industry, and academia can work together to provide a superior product. The multi-sector cooperation has led to improved forecasting tools, and a better understanding of winter weather in complex terrain. The data gathered will support future mountain weather research. The special software developed to exchange information between the forecasters has already been used by the National Weather Service to support the NOAA Weather Service’s ongoing mission for fire weather and all hazards forecasting.”
Graham, a native of Omaha, Neb., said, “It was a tremendous experience and opportunity to be able to participate on the Olympic Weather Support Group team in Salt Lake City. The tools that we had at our disposal were truly state-of-the-art. Also, the teamwork displayed between meteorologists in the government, private sector, and academia was instrumental in providing high quality forecasts. This spirit of collaboration and the professionalism of everyone involved was one of the most rewarding aspects of being on the forecast team.”
“Each person receiving the award was instrumental in contributing to the overall success of the Weather Support Group. I am proud of their work which has became part of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games history and will likely become a model for other countries in future Games. Our teams started planning more than five years before the events to ensure accurate and timely weather forecasts would be made,” Campbell said.
The Bronze Medal is the highest honorary award given by NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is granted by the administrator for a significant contribution to NOAA or the department.
NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National 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.