Contact: Marcie Katcher

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Bronze Medal to organizations of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for outstanding customer service, and providing expertise and leadership to decision makers before, during and after Hurricane Isabel in September 2003. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Recipients of the award include the National Weather Service Eastern Region Headquarters Operations Center; NWS forecast offices in Blacksburg, Va., Charleston, W.Va., Mt. Holly, N.J., State College, Pa., Binghamton, N.Y., Buffalo, N.Y., Wilmington, N.C.; NOAA’s Hydrometeorological Prediction Center; NWS Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center; NWS Southeast River Forecast Center; and NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center.

“Because of Hurricane Isabel’s size and inland progression, extensive coordination among NOAA’s offices was required to ensure decision makers were hearing a consistent message. This was extremely important since multiple offices served several states affected by Hurricane Isabel,” said Dean Gulezian, director of NWS Eastern Region Headquarters. “Because of our joint efforts, we were able to issue high wind warnings with over 20 hours lead time, flash flood warnings with over an hour lead time and sea height forecasts accurate to within three feet.”

The public was alerted to the threat of Isabel eight days before landfall. Isabel caused extensive flooding, and downed hundreds of thousands of trees and power lines, resulting in the loss of power to more than six million customers in more than six states. Seventeen deaths were directly related to Isabel and property loses were estimated at more than $3 billion.

For the first time, the NWS’ Southeast River Office used advanced dynamic route modeling to produce maps capable of animating areas of flooding in six-hour intervals, adding to the high level of customer service. Forecasts of sea heights of up to an unprecedented 55 feet from NOAA’s Ocean Prediction Center were timely and accurate, providing ocean going vessels time to avoid the danger, saving lives, vessels and cargo.

The NWS Eastern Region Headquarters in Bohemia, N.Y., operated a 24-hour Regional Operation Center to redirect human resources throughout the eastern U.S. to supplement staffing at the affected offices. This was done well in advance of Isabel’s landfall and assisted the local offices with the demanding workload caused by Isabel. Electronic technicians assisted field offices in getting vital equipment back up and running in a timely fashion. The Regional Operations Center also served as a hub for media requests.

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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