News From Wilmington, OH NWS

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Toward the end of each severe weather season, representatives of the 5 sectional amateur radio spotter nets serving the Wilmington, OH NWSFO (Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, West Union, and Wilmington) meet with officials at the National Weather Service to discuss the spotter program. Most emphasis is placed on the amateur radio operation, but other topics are covered. Saturday (September 12, 1998) was the date chosen for the annual gathering.

One of the primary purposes of this gathering is to judge the effectiveness of the spotter program and fine tune any areas that need it. Mr. Kenneth Haydu, Meteorologist in Charge at the Wilmington Office (ILN) represented the National Weather Service. Mr. Haydu expressed NWS’s satisfaction with the spotter program throughout the 52 county area served by his office. He offered the following facts to illustrate the effectiveness of the Wilmington office:

  • ILN is part of the NWS eastern region which has about 35 offices.
  • In 1997, ILN ranked number 1 in severe weather warning accuracy for the eastern region.
  • In 1997, ILN ranked number 2 in flood warning accuracy for the eastern region.
  • So far, in 1998, ILN an detection rate of 91% for severe weather warnings (the national average is about 50%).
  • ILN average lead time from warning to severe weather occurrence was 19 minutes.
  • ILN average lead time from warning to flood occurrence was 90 minutes.
  • So far this year, the Wilmington office has issued 400 severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings.

Warning accuracy is judged using a formula that counts any confirmed severe weather for which no warning was issued as a fault. Likewise, any severe weather warning that is issued when no confirmed severe weather occurs is also a fault. In other words, (my opinion) the NWS in Wilmington has established an enviable record of accuracy. Mr. Haydu attributed a great deal of this accuracy to the ham radio as well as non-ham spotters. GREAT JOB everyone (spotters and NWS staff)!

For the ham radio equipped spotters, there has been a “re-alignment” of counties in the ham radio sections. Recently, the Dayton section lost 4 northern counties to a new office in Indiana. It was agreed at the sectional meeting that the Dayton Section would assume reporting responsibility for the Indiana counties of Fayette and Union. These borderline counties actually align more evenly with Preble County than Butler County, therefore all felt they should be in the same section as Preble County. So, beginning October 1st, 1998, hams in Fayette and Union Counties in Indiana should forward severe weather reports to the Dayton net on 146.64 if possible. In the event you can’t reach the Dayton net, the Cincinnati net on 146.88 can be used as a backup.

The National Weather Service continues to modernize and expand the facility in Wilmington. They have installed a new computer system called AWIPS which stands for Advanced Weather Information Processing System (The government loves acronyms!). This system places much of the weather information like radar, satellite, ground observations, and forecast models all on a couple of screens. Until recently, all this information was spread around the office on different systems. AWIPS is in the implementation phase and is not fully operational yet.

Staff changes are currently under way to increase the number of forecasters. This is necessary for ILN to assume most forecast duties for this area. Currently many forecast products come from other offices in Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Louisville.

The NOAA Weather Radio 2000 program is progressing. Delivery of equipment is scheduled for mid-October. The new system will be placed in service around the beginning of 1999. This system will automate the NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts. It uses a computer generated voice to broadcast information. This may take some getting used to. It does, however, come with some major benefits. Since it automatically places warnings and watches on the air based on the computer generated text, it eliminates the need for a human to go to “the booth” and read all announcements manually. Eliminating this step speeds up the warning process. When first installed, the system will have to be “taught” local pronunciations of landmarks, towns, and such.

The latest information on the status of these programs can be found on the Wilmington NWS homepage at Wilmington NWS homepage.

Finally, while in Wilmington, I took a few pictures of the office. They are now posted on the WARN web page. Read the next article to view the Wilmington NWS Office pictures.

Again, thanks to all who participate in the Skywarn spotter system, whether ham radio operator or not. As always, feel free to contact WARN about any of your spotter questions.