Contact: Susan A. Weaver
NOAA News Releases 2003
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NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, yesterday, June 17, presented a Mark Trail NOAA Weather Radio Award to Gilbert Sebenste, staff meteorologist at Northern Illinois University, who led the effort to install a low-wattage NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio transmitter and 150 receivers to serve all campus and satellite campus buildings. Sebenste was honored for support of NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio. NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

Now in its seventh year, the Mark Trail Award program honors individuals and organizations that use or provide NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio receivers and transmitters to save lives and protect property. Nineteen award recipients will be recognized nationally this year.

“NOAA is proud to honor Gilbert Sebenste,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph. D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “His actions have enhanced the safety of citizens in Illinois.”

As staff meteorologist of NIU’s Physical Plant and Environmental Health and Safety, Sebenste knew the life-saving advantage NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio could provide to students and faculty. He organized the effort that led university officials to purchase more than 150 NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio receivers and installing a 100-watt transmitter to improve reception. NIU provided tower space for the transmitter, an equipment shelter, power and backup generator for the installation, all at no cost to the NOAA Weather Service. Sebenste’s efforts helped NIU become the first university in the country to earn the Weather Service’s StormReady designation.

According to Jim Allsopp, warning coordination meteorologist at the Chicago NOAA Weather Service Forecast Office in Romeoville, Sebenste has always held the safety of students as a high priority.

“Gilbert knows NOAA Weather & All Hazards Radio provides the fastest source of severe weather warnings and realized that receivers placed in campus buildings would better ensure all students could be advised of approaching severe weather in time to take adequate shelter,” Allsopp said. “After the Weather & All Hazards Radio receivers were acquired, he programmed each of them properly to limit tone alerts to those storms that would impact the NIU campus sites.”

“We were both ecstatic that NIU earned the first StormReady university designation in the country, largely because of Gilbert’s efforts. He guided the effort to develop emergency plans, made students aware of correct protective actions and trained campus police to be severe storm spotters and relay reports to us.”

“The combination of improved severe weather detection and forecasting capabilities, and expansion of our Weather & All Hazards Radio network is a proven formula for saving lives,” National Weather Service Central Region Director Dennis McCarthy said.

The Mark Trail awards are named for the nationally syndicated comic strip character, which serves as the campaign symbol for the NWR program. Since 1995, Jack Elrod, writer and illustrator of Mark Trail, and King Features Syndicate, have been strong advocates for the use of NWR. The strip's education message explains that anyone listening to the NWR has instant access to the same lifesaving weather reports and all-hazards emergency information provided to meteorologists and emergency personnel.

NOAA Weather Radio is a nationwide network of radio stations broadcasting continuous weather information nearby NOAA National Weather Service offices. NWR broadcasts NOAA National Weather Service warnings, watches, forecasts and other hazard information 24 hours a day. There are more than 800 NWR transmitters, covering all 50 states, adjacent coastal waters, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the U.S. Pacific Territories.

NOAA's 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. To learn more about NOAA National Weather Service, please visit

The Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 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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