NOAA 2006-R215
Contact: Ron Trumbla
NOAA News Releases 2006
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The U.S. Department of Commerce has awarded its prestigious Bronze Medal to NOAA’s National Weather Service forecast offices in Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville, Ala. The forecast offices are being recognized for outstanding customer service enabling public officials and citizens to take necessary, life-saving actions during Hurricane Ivan in 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 their expertise was needed most,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “They saved lives with their forecasts and warnings during those critical hours, and this award is a small token to recognize their invaluable service.”

Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez presented the award today at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. 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.

Hurricane Ivan was a long-lived hurricane that made two landfalls along U.S. coasts – first, as a category 3 hurricane near Gulf Shores, Ala. (Sept. 16) and later, as a tropical storm near the Louisiana-Texas border (Sept. 24). Following the initial landfall, Ivan moved northeastward and looped around to the southwest in a large clockwise motion. During that period, the storm spawned high winds, numerous tornadoes and widespread flooding; and, directly or indirectly, caused nearly 60 deaths and more than $14 billion in damage.

The weather forecast offices faced the difficult challenge of detecting floods and small, short-lived tornadoes with enough lead time to issue life-saving warnings. Hundreds of tornado warnings with an average lead time of 15 minutes and flood warnings with an average lead time of one hour were issued. Hundreds of calls were made to officials. At the same time, employees continuously updated the public through live interviews with the media.

Employees provided sustained, excellent service while working many hours under the stress of a fast breaking, atypical weather event. Their advanced warning and detailed, localized information allowed officials to pre-position assets, evacuate low-lying areas, close schools prior to the storm’s onset and provide immediate relief to impacted areas.

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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