NOAA 2006-R261
Contact: Chris Vaccaro
NOAA News Releases 2006
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Evaluation Highlights Agency Successes & Recommends Improvements

NOAA’s National Weather Service has released an internal evaluation of its operations during Hurricane Katrina. Service assessments are done routinely following major weather events and include input from government agencies, emergency managers, media, and the public.

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center consistently projected for more than two days in advance that Katrina would strike southeast Louisiana as a “major” hurricane and later issued hurricane watches and warnings with lead times of 44 and 32 hours, respectively — an extra eight hours beyond when such alerts are typically issued.

“The accurate forecasts provided for extended warning times,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of NOAA's National Weather Service. “Our ability to identify where a major hurricane would hit the Gulf Coast was among the actions that saved countless lives.”

Katrina first crossed the U.S. coast as a Category 1 hurricane near the border of Broward and Miami-Dade counties in Florida on August 25. Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane with top winds of 125 mph during its second landfall in Buras, La., on August 29, and soon thereafter made its final landfall near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Service assessments are a valuable contribution to the ongoing efforts to improve the timeliness and effectiveness of National Weather Service products and services. “The Hurricane Katrina assessment highlights the best practices while recommending improvements that will allow the National Weather Service to better serve the American public in effort to protect life and property,” added Johnson.

Thirteen “best practices” were identified in the Katrina assessment, among them:

  • Max Mayfield, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, contacting the governors of Louisiana and Mississippi, the mayor of New Orleans, and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency to emphasize the severity of Katrina.
  • The National Weather Service forecast office in Slidell, La., which serves New Orleans, issuing vividly worded statements that explicitly described the impending catastrophic damage expected from Katrina.
  • Deploying incident meteorologists to Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina to fill gaps in the weather observation network created by the hurricane.

Recommendations also were cited in the assessment and are currently being addressed by NOAA’s National Weather Service. They include:

  • Provide all appropriate weather forecast offices with standard hurricane impact statement templates, similar to those issued by the forecast office in Slidell, La.
  • Evaluate current telecommunications networks for potential single points of failure and developing alternate networks to better support field office backup operations.
  • Establish alternative communications systems for field offices to communicate with other National Weather Service offices and emergency officials.

The full NOAA Hurricane Katrina Assessment may be found at:

In 2007 NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. Starting with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. The agency is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by 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 more than 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:

NOAA Hurricane Katrina Assessment: