News Releases 2004
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Bronze Medal to the NOAA National Weather Service Weather Forecast Offices in Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala. The award recognizes the staff of both offices for providing critical information (resulting in a zero fatality rate) to emergency managers, the media and the public during a historic 100 year flood event on May 6, 2003. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Despite being in the threatened area themselves and overcoming concerns for their own family’s welfare, staff members put service above self and remained at their posts to provide advanced warning to more than 50 emergency management responders throughout the state. Aggressive communication techniques included the use of direct calls, advanced pager notification, a HAM radio network and 800 megahertz (MHz) radios to link with state and county responders. They also issued more than 300 critical, life saving products in a 12 hour period to unselfishly serve the people of Alabama.
Instant communication techniques increased warning lead times and improved the warning process. Area emergency managers credit the offices’ coordination and mitigation efforts for saving numerous lives.
Randolph County Emergency Management Director Donnie Knight said, “You can’t put a price on the services that the Birmingham Weather Forecast Office provided that night. Millions of dollars aren’t enough to pay for the services provided that resulted in no loss of life or injuries for this record flood.”
In northern Alabama, Dekalb County Emergency Management Director Ricky Little added, “Huntsville has done an excellent job with this severe weather event. I am very appreciative of our close communications and greatly impressed with the increased warning lead times we were provided, especially regarding flash flooding.”
This success validates how well the strong partnership between the Birmingham and Huntsville offices is working to provide superior public service. As a result of NWS outreach efforts, Alabama communities now appreciate the threat of urban flooding, and are considering the acquisition of new warning dissemination systems, such as sirens along flood prone creeks and streams.
The award was presented at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The secretary of commerce presents the Bronze Medal to commerce department offices and employees who have made outstanding or significant contributions in support of the overall departmental goals that serve the nation.
NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA's 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.
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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