NOAA 99R203
Contact: Joe Sullivan, Patrick J. Slattery


KANSAS CITY - A multi-billion dollar investment in education, training and technology paid off for the National Weather Service as 1998 turned into 1999. Thanks to that investment, the Weather Service was able to provide its best predictions ever of a developing winter storm.

Weather Service offices from St. Louis to Green Bay were able to give the public advance warning of the developing storm that wouldn't have been possible even a few years ago. The early - and accurate - warning, according to Weather Service Central Region Director Richard P. Augulis in Kansas City, Kan, can be attributed to better understanding of the science of meteorology and the use of state-of-the-art weather observing technologies.

"As this storm system developed," Augulis said, "the public was able to see the benefits of meteorologists being able to utilize the science and new technology to predict these storms with more details that users need and want.

"High powered computers are able to run our forecast models much better - to provide much more information and more accurate storm tracks and forecasts. Our methods of collecting weather information provide us with a much better data base for input into those models, and our new communications systems allow our offices to share and digest all that information much faster than ever before.

Augulis said those advancements have helped a relatively young force of weather service forecasters to function like old pros. "We have a relatively young work force with not a whole lot of experience," he said, "but the forecasters performed with an efficiency far beyond their years. Having some old hands still on staff certainly helped that development, but these younger folks are showing what they can do with the technologies brought into use by our modernization program."

Weather Service forecasters drew praise from television meteorologists and newspapers for their excellent work in predicting when and where the first winter storm of 1999 would hit - something unheard of not that long ago. From the Chicago Tribune to the Des Moines Register (two cities buried by 10-22 inches of snow) headlines lauded meteorologists for their early and accurate forecasts. Broadcast and print media generally agreed the Weather Service did its best job ever of providing needed information to the public. Augulis, in turn, credited media forecasters with helping get word of the storm to the public. "I think every broadcast meteorologist in the central United States spent several days advising their viewers and listeners of this approaching storm," he said.

The Des Moines and Chicago Weather Service offices were among those that issued the first notices of the impending New Year's weekend storm on December 27. A recently opened office in northern Indiana provided early notice of likely lake effect snow in the South Bend area.

The accuracy of forecasts provided in seven states from Missouri to Michigan's Upper Peninsula helped keep the public from harm, Augulis said.

"There were people caught in on highways and some major airports were forced to close by the storm," Augulis said, "but it shouldn't have been because they didn't know it was coming." He also credited forecasters for stressing the bitter cold and wind chills that followed the snow, further helping protect the public from harm.

More information on the National Weather Service and forecasts and warnings may be found on the Internet. The Weather Service home page is at: Information about local conditions and forecasts can be found on the agency's Interactive Weather Information Network site at: