NOAA 03-075
Contact: Curtis Carey
NOAA News Releases 2003
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The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science issued a letter praising the dedication and service provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) staff during the record breaking severe weather outbreak of May 4-11. NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

In a letter addressed to retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jack Kelly, director of the NOAA National Weather Service, Science Committee Chairman Sherwood L. Boehlert and committee members praised the agency’s staff at Weather Forecast Offices (WFO) in the affected areas.

Noted were the WFO in Springfield, Pleasant Hill and St. Louis, Mo.; Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.; Norman and Tulsa, Okla.; Paducah and Jackson, Ky.; Lincoln, Ill.; Shreveport, La.; Little Rock, Ark.; Fort Worth and San Angelo, Texas; Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala.; Topeka and Wichita, Kan.; and, Atlanta, Ga. Personnel at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.; the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La.; and National Weather Service regional and national headquarters were also praised for their efforts.

Boehlert said, “It is hard for us to comprehend the demanding situation faced by the personnel during this intense one-week period, where nearly 400 tornadoes occurred, the largest number ever recorded in that time frame. We understand that many of your employees in the hardest hit areas literally lived in their weather offices, working long, stressful hours to issue warnings that saved lives, and then having to follow-up with visits to the affected sites.”

The Science Committee is responsible for overseeing research and development programs at numerous federal agencies to ensure federal tax dollars are being spent wisely and efficiently and that America's federal science and technology enterprise maintains its world preeminence.

From May 4-11, a total of 386 tornadoes were reported in 21 states causing 41 deaths. During that period, National Weather Forecast Offices issued a total of 5,124 warnings including 1,115 tornado warnings. This period also represents the most active week on record for tornadoes, more than doubling the previous record of 171 tornadoes set during the week of May 12-18, 1995.

“We greatly appreciate the outstanding service your agency provides to this nation, and the countless lives you help save every day. The dedicated efforts of the Weather Service staff and volunteers exemplify what public service truly means,” Boehlert added.

The Metropolitan Oklahoma City area was particularly hard hit as multiple tornadoes raked the region Thursday and Friday (May 8-9) causing widespread damage and injuring 145 people. Only one (indirect) death was reported during the event.

“They did such a tremendous job of giving early warning to the residents of Oklahoma about these storms and in such a manner that it enabled people to seek appropriate shelter,” said Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry. “I believe that was a major factor contributing to the fact that we had only one fatality.”

Gov. Henry’s comments were typical of those of state and local officials and emergency managers throughout the affected areas.

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.

The Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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