NOAA 03-R299-21
Contact: Marilu Trainor
NOAA News Releases 2003
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The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) has awarded its Silver Medal to the staff of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Forecast Office (WFO) in Medford, Ore. They earned this prestigious award for providing a multitude of critical services in support of fire suppression activities during the summer of 2002.

Roger Williams, who serves as meteorologist in charge, will represent the local office during a national awards ceremony on Sept. 18 in Washington, D.C. The Silver Medal is the second highest honorary award given by the Secretary of the Department of Commerce.

According to Williams, the NWS weather forecast office in Medford was recognized for their dedication and support of fire suppression activities in southwest Oregon from April to September, 2002 with the most demanding period beginning in July. During last year’s wildfire season, southern Oregon experienced the most damaging fire season in 70 years as multiple wildfires burned well over 600,000 acres.

By the close of the fire season, the Medford forecast staff had set a new team record by issuing 818 site-specific forecasts for wildfires. They met the workload challenge even though two of their fellow forecasters were often called away from Oregon to provide support to land management agencies battling fires in other states.

“Two of Medford’s fifteen staff meteorologists spent 120 days and provided more than1,700 hours of support to land management agencies while at fires in Oregon and in other states. As Incident Meteorologists, or IMETs, they are trained in small-scale weather forecasting needed by fire fighting agencies. The rest of the Medford staff collectively worked 69 additional days to cover shifts vacated by our deployed meteorologists,” said Williams.

“The remaining forecast staff took up the reins as they continued to provide outstanding support to multiple fire suppression activities,” said Vickie Nadolski, NWS Western Region Director in Salt Lake City. “The entire Medford team was involved in providing exemplary levels of service to local and regional land management agencies throughout the summer.”

Williams explained that, the Medford staff prepared more than 15 detailed spot forecasts per day for fire fighters, in addition to their daily weather forecasting duties. Daily conference calls provided fire weather briefings for land management agencies, and meterological information to multiple agencies. Local forecasters also consulted with up to 16 other IMETs who were deployed to provide on- site support for many fires in southern Oregon.

Throughout this challenging 2002 fire season, Williams said the Medford weather office implemented a new agency-wide software system called the Interactive Forecast Preparation System. The system helps meteorologists and hydrologists prepare operational forecasts for the public, marine community and fire fighting agencies.

Nadolski said, “This level of teamwork takes good leadership and a dedicated staff. This combination worked well because they knew the conditions in southern Oregon would likely lead to major wildfires last year. They planned ahead for their diverse duties and their preparations paid off. The staff’s dedication to the mission of the National Weather Service and to providing critical services for the protection of life and property year-round, reflect highly on the Department of Commerce and NOAA’s goals to serve the citizens of this nation.”

The Medford office provides daily forecasts and life-saving weather watches and warnings for the counties of Curry, Coos, Douglas, Josephine, Jackson, Klamath, and Lake counties in southern Oregon and for Siskiyou and Modoc counties in northern California.

“I am very proud of the actions of the NWS team in Medford during the past fire season. They went beyond the mere performance of duty. The workload on the team during the season was both complex and diverse and there were many examples of service before self exhibited by everyone. We’re proud of this effort because we fulfilled our mission and provided the level of support required by our customers last summerIt’s a great feeling to also be recognized by the Department of Commerce for our efforts,” Williams added.

The Commerce Department's 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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