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National Weather Service strives to create weather-ready nation

BY GRACE PATERAS | OCTOBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa Flood Center will partner with the National Weather Service to better inform the public on future disasters and to save more lives.

At a presentation held on Wednesday, speakers discussed the benefits of having a strong relationship among researchers and decision-makers to build a weather-ready nation.

Louis Uccellini, the director of the National Weather Service, stressed the need to create bonds with state and local groups for their mission to succeed.

“We can’t tell people not to do forecasts and not do warnings,” he said. “But we have to work with these partners to ensure consistency.”

A strategic plan was developed four years ago, which was rated highly by the National Academy of Public Administration. However, officials agreed that the National Weather Service cannot pursue its mission alone.

As estimated by the National Weather Service, roughly 25 million American lives will be lost due to flood-related disasters in the next 30 years.

The National Weather Service plans on using 3 million forecast stream catchments throughout the nation, which is about 2.9 million more than are currently installed, to further advance more accurate flood predictions in the future.

The Iowa Flood Center has been pushing research on flood predictions with similar efforts.

“[We have been] putting more sensors out and installing stream-flow sensors,” said Larry Weber, director of IIHR- Hydroscience and Engineering. “It helps with predicting forecasts.”

The program currently receives $1.5 million per year from state appropriations. In addition, $22.5 million are provided to it by federal funds.

“[The Iowa Flood Center] will serve the National Weather Service as one of its academic partners,” Weber said. “We communicate to communities to help them better understand their risk.”

One way to prevent this is to create partnerships with decision-makers who realize the importance of predictions and warnings.

Decision-makers can include church groups, nonprofits, schools and others who hold the responsibility of informing locals to take precautions in time of need.

Across the nation, Don Cline, acting director of the office of Hydrologic Development of the National Weather Service, said many cities are worried about flooding in their communities.

“Every time we have a flood, the same problems and science weaknesses come over and over again,” he said in his presentation. “We’ve always collaborated [with communities], but we need to step our game up for these challenges.”

Cline said the nation is not water-ready yet, but the National Weather Center, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is working toward that goal.

Services to support the nation’s need for comprehensive water intelligence is one of the programs’ main focuses.

“The water center doesn’t need to spend time and resources on research,” he said. “It’ll focus on transitioning research to operations and water predictions.”


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