Contact: Pat Slattery

NOAA 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 Office in Marquette, Mich. The award recognizes the outstanding service provided by the staff of the forecast office during the May 14, 2003, levy failure on Silver Lake and subsequent Dead River flash flood. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The failure of a levy on North Central Upper Michigan’s 1,470-acre Silver Lake sent a torrent of water and debris downstream toward four other dams, homes, businesses and the city of Marquette. Approximately 83 percent of the lake (more than 9.5 billion gallons of water) emptied into the Dead River system over a 24-hour period. Even before local emergency management and power company dam operators were able to advise those downstream of potential risks, NWS forecasters issued a flash flood warning advising those in harm’s way to move to higher ground.

Continuous coordination with local emergency management authorities allowed for rapid announcement of evacuation orders to affected residents via a Civil Emergency Message broadcast on NOAA Weather Radio, giving 9-16 hours advance notice of the potentially catastrophic flood threat. Frequent updates informed residents of changing conditions and risks. While the flash flood caused significant damage to public facilities, 14 businesses and 20 homes with environmental and economic impacts of more than $102 million, there were no deaths or injuries.

In addition to saving lives and preventing injuries, the staff’s accomplishments will enhance the level of national preparedness and response capabilities in the event of future dam failures. A post-event service assessment conducted over a four month period identified 22 best-practices that contributed to the overall success of the event.

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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