FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Susan A. Weaver
News Releases 2003
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) forecast office in Indianapolis has been selected as a 2003 recipient of the U.S. Department of Commerce Silver Medal organizational award for tornado warnings issued during the Sept. 20, 2002, central Indiana tornado outbreak. Scheduled for presentation at a Sept. 18th awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., the Silver Medal is the second-most distinguished employee organizational award presented annually by the Commerce Department. NOAA is part of the Department of Commerce.
According to the award announcement, the weather forecast office management and staff “employed careful and thorough preparedness and planning with community leaders over a period of years in preparation for the potential of a tornado disaster. A thorough and rigorous in-house training regimen culminated in exemplary forecast and warning services when tornadoes ravaged high-population areas of central Indiana on September 20, 2002.”
The Indianapolis staff issued advance warnings of four tornadoes that impacted 12 central Indiana counties and several populated areas, including portions of the Indianapolis metropolitan area. The longest-lived tornado of the four touched down near Ellettsville in Monroe Country just before 1 p.m. that day and remained on the ground for 112 miles. Reaching F-3 strength at its maximum, the tornado went through portions of nine counties before lifting into the clouds two hours and 20 minutes after it touched down.
The tornadoes caused 130 injuries and $156 million in property damages, but there were no deaths.
By the end of the day, “45 Indiana schools were directly impacted,” according to the Indiana Department of Education, which noted administrators had adequate warning time to get students to safe areas. One school principal noted that the 30-25 minutes of advance warning let officials take necessary actions so that “when the time came, we were ready.”
John Ogren, meteorologist in charge at the NOAA Weather Service office in Indianapolis, said participation in the Weather Service’s StormReady program was a key for ensuring public safety. “The hardest hit counties of Monroe, Johnson and Marion were all designated StormReady,” Ogren said. “As a result there were many success stories where people heard the warnings in advance and sought shelter before the storm hit. The people on this staff working to save lives with our partners in emergency management, schools and the media played a major role in mitigating against injuries and fatalities during the tornado outbreak.”
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