NOAA 2006-R214
Contact: Ron Trumbla
NOAA News Releases 2006
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Bronze Medal to a group of forecasters from NOAA’s National Weather Service Weather forecast office in Lubbock, Texas. The forecasters are being recognized for their expertise in forecasting the significant West Texas dust storms of Dec.15, 2003, and Feb. 19, 2004.

“The Bronze Medal represents our nation’s appreciation for the skill and hard work NOAA’s National Weather Service meteorologists demonstrated at a time when it was needed most,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “I’m very proud that the secretary of commerce has chosen members of the NOAA team to receive this award.”

The Commerce Department grants the Bronze Medal to offices and employees who have made outstanding or significant contributions in support of the overall departmental goals that serve the nation.

Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez presented the award today at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. The award recipients include Robert Barritt, Jody James, Ronald McQueen, Martin Mullen, Mark Conder, Shawn Ellis and William Hopkins.

The events of Dec. 15, 2003, and Feb. 19, 2004, were two of the worst high-wind dust storms on record for West Texas. Each storm produced widespread wind gusts to near-hurricane strength (peak winds were 67 mph and 63 mph, respectively). Blowing dust and near-zero visibilities resulted in numerous automobile accidents, including a multi-vehicle accident that resulted in two deaths and 12 injuries. High winds also toppled several 18-wheel trucks.

On both occasions, the impacts could have been much greater if not for the group’s timely, accurate forecasting. The potential for high wind and blowing dust was included in the Lubbock forecast office’s public forecast discussion four days in advance of the December storm. The high winds and dust were included in forecast products several days in advance and a high wind warning was issued with 21 hours notice. Similar discussions also began four days in advance of the February storm. A high wind watch was issued 32 hours in advance and a high wind warning was issued nine hours before the storm.

Following one of the storms, Garza County Constable Daniel Yarbro said, "They issued a high wind warning and the public was well aware of the approaching hazard. The National Weather Service office in Lubbock executed their mission to the fullest extent possible."

“The Lubbock weather forecast office played a critical role in getting the word out to our station and other media outlets in West Texas,” FOX34 Chief Meteorologist Bryan Hughes said.

The National Weather Service is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. 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. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners and 60 countries to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.

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