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Contact: Ron Trumbla
News Releases 2005
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A Silver Medal – one of the highest honors granted by the Secretary of the Department of Commerce – has been awarded to two meteorologists with NOAA’s National Weather Service for their pioneering work in developing a rip current awareness and forecast program for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.
“This Silver Medal acknowledges the life-saving results of the national rip current awareness and forecast program,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Through increased education and improved forecasting, more and more people will become aware of rip current threats and take the measures to stay safe.”
Silver medals, honoring “exceptional performance characterized by noteworthy or superlative contributions that have a direct and lasting impact within the department,” were presented to Jim Lushine, warning coordination meteorologist (retired) for the National Weather Service forecast office in Miami, and Randy Lascody, senior forecaster at the Melbourne, Fla., forecast office, at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Lushine originally conceived the rip current program and joined forces with Lascody to conduct the research and development, resulting in a national program that has already saved lives and is expected to save many more in the future.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They typically extend from the shoreline, through the surf zone, and past the line of breaking waves. Rip currents can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including the Great Lakes. Each year, many people attempt to swim against rip currents to get back to shore, tire quickly and drown.
Lushine noticed that specific meteorological conditions usually accompanied reports of rip current drownings in South Florida. He and Lascody then researched county records and other data, to correlate rip current deaths with the weather, and developed a forecast method to predict the daily rip current risk. They wrote papers to document their findings and eventually saw their program mature into a nationally recognized effort to raise awareness about the nature and dangers of rip currents.
The United States Lifesaving Association estimates that rip currents kill 100 people each year. Rip currents account for more than 80 percent of the rescues performed by surf beach lifeguards. Since the rip current awareness and forecast program began, the number of deaths from rip currents in South Florida has dropped from an average of 10 deaths per year to an average of six.
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.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, 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. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.
On the Web:
NOAA’s National Weather Service: http://nws.noaa.gov
rip current program: http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov