As a former National Weather Service employee (Office of Hydrology and Scientific Services Division), I have enormous respect for the work that my meteorology friends do on a daily and nightly basis to keep us safe from severe weather and to help us plan our daily lives by providing accurate weather forecasts. Some of them are probably even reading this at 4 am when the blog digest comes out, because they work 24/7/365 in their offices across the country.
This past week the NWS has really shone as Hurricane Dorian crept along the East Coat, but in addition to that impactful weather, they were forecasting for severe weather in the central US and forest fires and extreme heat out west. All this for the price of a cup of fancy coffee a year by every American, an annual budget that is less than the budget of the University of Georgia where I work. Because of this, I was dismayed to hear that late this afternoon an anonymous NOAA spokesperson put out a statement trashing the NWS Birmingham office for correctly noting that Alabama was not predicted to be in the path of a hurricane as our President had incorrectly tweeted. (If you want to read the statement, I am sure you can find it online but I am not going to repost it here. A timeline of the whole kerfluffle is at CNN here through Thursday, before today’s statement came out.) There is no excuse for this! Here is a Facebook statement by Dr. Joe Friday, a former head of the NWS who headed the modernization of the NWS in the 1980s and 1990s, someone I met during that time and who impressed me with his integrity and desire to make the NWS the best it could be.
First, let me say how proud I am of how well the NWS handled the difficult forecast situation with hurricane Dorian. The NHC and the WFOs are to be commended for the accuracy of the warnings and forecasts and their efforts to communicate the dangers to the emergency management community and to the public.
The blemish to a Federal Government carrying out its duty to protect life and property was the erroneous warning issued by a Presidential Tweet. At the time of our glorious leader’s tweet, the chances of significant impact to the state of Alabama was essentially zero. The recent communications by a ‘NOAA Spokesman’ which tried to rewrite history in deplorable. Chastising WFO Birmingham for correctly pointing out that there was no danger to Alabama was unconscionable.
NOAA is a great agency with an important mission for the nation. This rewriting history to satisfy an ego diminishes NOAA.
Please join me in thanking NWS employees for all the work they do to keep us safe and to provide us with the best science possible in all they do!