NOAA 2004-R299-42
Contact: Greg Romano

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Gold Medal to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., and five Weather Forecast Offices in the southern and central region of the National Weather Service. The award was presented in recognition of their outstanding, life saving performance during a record tornado outbreak from May 4-10, 2003. NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

An unprecedented series of tornado outbreaks occurred in portions of the Great Plains, Midwest and Mid-South that week. During the seven-day period, a total of 393 tornadoes were reported in 19 states resulting in 39 deaths and approximately $600 million in damages.

The SPC played a critical role throughout the event by issuing numerous severe weather outlooks; 123 tornado and severe thunderstorm watches, with average lead times of two to eight hours; and more than 200 mesoscale discussions. During that same period, the five NWS weather forecast offices issued 4,050 severe convective weather warnings, including 1,090 Tornado Warnings, with an average lead time 19 minutes, and 2,960 Severe Thunderstorm Warnings. The offices include WFO Memphis, Tenn.; Norman, Okla.; Pleasant Hill, Mo.; Springfield, Mo.; and Paducah, Ky.

The high level of service provided by the SPC and WFOs was widely praised by the media, emergency management community and the public. It also was the subject of a letter signed by 11 members of the U.S. House of Representatives’ House Science Committee that stated in part, “…many of your employees in the hardest hit areas literally lived in their weather offices, working long, stressful hours to issue the warnings that saved lives…”. The SPC and WFOs were also cited for the “…outstanding service your agency provides to this nation and the lives you save every day.”

“The efforts noted in this award are indicative of the incredible dedication displayed by the men and women of the Storm Prediction Center and the Weather Forecast Offices,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “We are very proud that the secretary of commerce has chosen our weather service personnel to receive the department’s highest award.” The award was presented at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C.

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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