Contact: Ron Trumbla

NOAA News Releases 2004
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs


The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Bronze Medal to the NOAA National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office in Miami. The award recognizes the outstanding customer service provided by the staff of the Miami WFO during a rare multiple tornado outbreak in South Florida on March 27, 2003. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The outbreak resulted in one death, 14 injuries and more than $8 million in damages. The single death was the first caused by a tornado in Miami-Dade County since 1925 when five people were killed by an F2 tornado. Since South Florida tornadoes are usually short lived (generally less than two minutes) and weak, this outbreak was unusual.

On March 27, the morning forecast from the Miami WFO mentioned “Some Thunderstorms, Possibly Severe,” and the morning Hazardous Weather Outlook also highlighted the possibility of severe thunderstorms during the day. By early afternoon, the office initiated severe weather staffing and an amateur radio team was called in to assist in the dissemination of warnings and damage report verification.

A Tornado Warning was issued at 4:55 p.m. for northeast Miami-Dade County, 20 minutes in advance (national tornado warning lead time average is 12 minutes) of the first touchdown and 51 minutes in advance of the tornado that produced the fatality. In total, the Miami WFO issued nine Tornado Warnings, covering 13 counties with an average warning lead-time of 23 minutes.

In addition to the life saving, long lead times provided by Miami WFO, the staff’s accomplishments represent a major advancement in understanding South Florida severe weather patterns. Archived data from the WSR-88D Doppler radar, surface and marine observations, satellite imagery and model data from this event can now be used to conduct research, publish results and train forecasters.

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.

On the Web:


NOAA’s National Weather Service: