The Prevailing Winds


Written and edited by: Glenn Field, WCM



Like many organizations in this decade, the National Weather Service has undergone dramatic change. Our science, technology, and service expectations have changed from yesterday and will undoubtedly be on a higher level tomorrow. You, our SKYWARN spotters, are an integral part of this rapid evolution. Our ability to assess new scientific techniques, validate the information from our radar and other technologies, and measure our progress toward higher expectations depends critically upon the information you provide. You continue to be our eyes and ears where the weather really counts: the community and neighborhood level. For example, with a winter storm, your snowfall or ice accretion report provides key input when I and others evaluate our performance . During every spring/summer severe weather outbreak, spotter reports are used extensively to calibrate our radar warning thresholds. Warning verification studies confirm enhanced performance. I'm convinced that warning performance improvements are the result of more intelligently assimilating your spotter reports with better science, more powerful remote sensing technology, and a commitment by our staff to raise the "bar" on warning accuracy and timeliness. On behalf of my staff at the Taunton office, THANK YOU and keep up the great work. Together, we really do make a difference.


The SKYWARN program has become so successful that we trained 750 spotters in 1998! We now have a grand total of 2,380 spotters in the 4-state area which we serve. (Entering this many spotters into the database has taken a great deal of time, which has delayed the mailings of this newsletter.) It's not too many spotters, however, because realistically, we hear from far fewer than that total might imply. One reason for this may be that, unlike in the Midwest, where there are many mobile spotters on east-west/north-south roads, in New England we rely mostly on reports from people who have experienced the condition right at their house. We very much appreciate the excellent and timely reports that we have received...your information helps us with our warnings and forecasts...and can help save lives and property!

For the latest reporting criteria, please view our website in the "SKYWARN" section near the bottom of the menu choices on the left: . A few changes include: 1) please report after the first 2 (not 3) inches of snow; 2) for events less than 2 inches of snow, please give us the final total when the event has ended, since this information (like snow squalls) can be important; 3) please report thunder in the winter only when accompanied by snow. The summer criteria remain the same. Again, your timely reports of hail or wind gusts > 40 mph are critical to our warning operations, since we can link your report with what we see on doppler radar. Don't forget to report any damage, such as trees or large limbs down, windows smashed, etc. Also, report flooding of streams/creeks, or even when they are nearing bankfull. Remember that heavy rain and lightning, in the absence of damage, are not reportable criteria.

Despite the training at SKYWARN sessions, we received several "no-no" reports during the past summer: "sand-sized hail" ; "horizontal lightning" ; "marble-size hail" (various marble sizes exist); "raining buckets"; "torrential rain at about a 2 inch/hr clip" (this is very hard to judge); barometer readings; high and low temperatures, etc.

1999 Spotter Training Sessions

Again, for the latest listing of confirmed sites and more detailed directions, please see or call Glenn Field at 508-823-1900. As of this printing, the following are confirmed unless otherwise shown (Weeknights are 7-10 PM; Sat.'s Noon-3PM):

SAT., APRIL 10 SOUTHWICK, MA Consolidated Town Hall, 454 College Hwy (Rt.202/10)
TUE., APRIL 13 WESTERLY, RI Westerly High School
WED. APRIL 14 FOXBORO, MA Foxboro Company Bristol Park Cafeteria (off Rt. 140
                                                 across from Bradlees Plaza)
SAT., MAY 1 SUTTON, MA Sutton Junior/Senior High School
WED., MAY 5 WEST WARWICK, RI West Warwick Senior Center; 20 Factory Street
THU., MAY 13 **tentative** for DANIELSON, CT
SAT., MAY 15 HAVERHILL, MA Northern Essex Community College, Bldg. C (Spurk),
                                                 Lecture Hall A; on Elliott Way
WED., MAY 19 MARLBORO, MA Marlboro Fire Dept.
TUE., MAY 25 **tentative** for HARWICH, MA
WED., MAY 26 PLYMOUTH, MA Plymouth Community Intermediate School;
                                                117 Long Pond Road
TUE., JUNE 1 WALPOLE, NH Walpole Fire Station
WED., JUNE 2 **tentative** for near JAFFREY or PETERBOROUGH, NH

1998 Hurricane Season Extremely Deadly

Hurricane Mitch, which lasted from October 22 - Nov. 6, 1998, was a Category 5 storm whose sustained winds were, at one point, estimated at 180 mph!!! It formed in the Gulf of Mexico and weakened considerably before striking Central America. There were more than 10,000 deaths and heavy damage to roads, bridges, and agriculture, especially in Honduras and Nicaragua. This is a dramatic example of the impact of flooding rains once a weakened storm moves inland!

Hurricane Georges, which lasted from Sept. 15-19, 1998, was a Category 4 storm with top sustained winds of 150 mph. More than 350 people were killed and there was major damage in Puerto Rico, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. It then hit Cuba, the Florida Keys, and ten 4 Gulf coast states.

The names "Georges" and "Mitch" have been retired from the list of hurricane names.

Tropical Storm Charlie made landfall in Texas on Aug. 21-22, 1998 causing 18 inches of rain in Del Rio, TX. Floods killed at least 19 people. There were 3 reported deaths from Hurricane Earl which dumped nearly 2 feet of rain on the Florida Panhandle. Tropical Storm Frances flooded 300 miles of Gulf Coast in TX and LA, with one reported death.

Severe Storms Struck Southern New England - Summer of 1998

Due to space considerations, we cannot go into great detail about these storms, but in the summer of 1998, three storms stand out from the rest. On May 31, 1998 a very intense macroburst stretched across Worcester County from North Brookfield through Spencer, Leicester, Worcester, Shrewsbury, and Grafton. A wind gust to 104 mph was clocked at Holy Cross College in Worcester (elev. 750 ft.) and a peak gust to 94 mph was recorded by the ASOS at Worcester Airport. A tornado warning was issued for this storm, which helped heighten the awareness as to the intensity of the storm. A tornado was confirmed on that day in Antrim, NH, which is in Hillsborough County. It was determined to be a F2 tornado (on a damage scale of 0 to 5) that was 85 yards wide and 0.5 miles in path length. A Severe Thunderstorm Warning was upgraded to a Tornado Warning for this storm before any reports of a tornado were received. One family in Antrim said they saw the Tornado Warning on the red scrolling screen on The Weather Channel...saw that it said Antrim...and then the tornado struck a couple of minutes later, when they were in their basement! The third big event was on June 30, 1998 when baseball size hail (2.75 inches in diameter) was observed in Richmond, RI !!! This storm went on to produce a 75-85 mph microburst in Fairhaven, MA.

1999 Hurricane Season Forecast by Dr. Bill Gray

La Niņa is in full swing. In addition, Dr. Bill Gray (professor at Colorado State University) has highlighted other factors, such as the persistence of warm North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomalies and a westerly Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (stratospheric) wind in the Summer of '99, in coming up with his prediction of a very active 1999 hurricane season.

On December 4, 1998, he made the following forecast for the 1999 season:

NAMED STORMS:              14 (Normal is 9.3)
HURRICANES:                      9 (Normal is 5.8)
INTENSE HURRICANES: 4 (Normal is 2.2) (Intense means CAT. 3,4, or 5)

Keep in mind that the number of storms in a given season does not necessarily mean that New England has a better chance of being struck. In fact, in 1995, there were 19 named storms and none of them affected New England. In 1992, there were only a handful, but one of them was Andrew, which devastated Florida.

Bill Gray has a new prediction scheme, which attempts to predict the chance of a major storm making landfall on the East Coast, including Florida. This experimental forecast suggests that the probability is 185% of normal along the East Coast including the Florida peninsula and 168% of normal along the Gulf Coast. Time will tell.

Air Force WC-130 Hurricane Hunter Aircraft On DispIay 4/30/99 and Presentation By The Director Of The National Hurricane Center!

Don't miss this! On Friday, April 30, 1999, from 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM at the Otis Military Base in Bourne, MA (western part of Cape Cod), the Hurricane Hunter plane will be available for boarding with a demonstration of its on-board equipment (such as where dropsondes are launched) given by the flight crew. Later that evening, from 7:30 PM - 9 PM, there will be a hurricane seminar by both Jerry Jarrell, Director of the National Hurricane Center, and David Vallee, Service Hydrologist/Hurricane Program Leader at NWS-Taunton. This will be held at the OTIS BASE THEATER (Building #5219) located on Turpentine Road.

1999 Hurricane Names

Arlene           Lenny
Bret               Maria
Cindy            Nate
Dennis          Ophelia
Emily             Philippe
Floyd             Rita
Gert               Stan
Harvey          Tammy
Irene              Vince
Jose              Wilma


As many of you are probably aware, we list many snowfall reports from the NWS network of sources, which includes trained SKYWARN spotter reports, in a Public Information Statement (PNS). This is updated at least every 3 hours during a snowstorm; more frequently if significant reports are received. We have received several complaints from spotters that their particular report did not get listed in our PNS. Thus, it seems as though we needed to state what the purpose of the PNS is and reiterate the fact that your reports are indeed useful to us.

The PNS is a product that is intended to give a representative sampling of reports such that it accurately depicts what happened across our forecast area for a given event. With 351 independent towns and cities in MA alone, 39 in RI, would be a nearly impossible undertaking to list a report for each town, let alone east or west parts of town; nor is that the intent of the PNS. Please rest assured that if your report has not been listed in the PNS, it has gone to good use. For example, behind-the-scenes it is being used in determining the zone forecast or the need for a warning or advisory; it may be incorporated into our short-term forecast; it is used in the after-the-event verification of warnings that we've issued; and it may also be used in research efforts (such as mesoscale banding features; why there were minimum areas; downslope effects for various wind directions, etc.). Your reports are treasured, even though it may not be listed per se in the PNS. [Some reasons for not listing it may be that it does not vary much from an adjacent town; that it has been superseded by a more recent report in the same town; etc.]



Beginning around April 5, 1999, the NOAA Weather Radio will become automated by the "Console Replacement System" (CRS) -- this is taking place nationally. We have been programming CRS (actually, the product formatters that feed into CRS) so that it can pronounce cities like Falmouth (not "foul mouth"), for some time now. Granted, the voice can be monotonous and downright annoying, but we have adjusted the speech rate and other parameters to minimize the problems. The good news is that there will actually be more/better information announced on the Weather Radio, such as: 1) hourly weather observations are actually updated 3 times/hour, so any "special" observations will be announced; 2) a forecast for all of southern New England (our "SFP") will be broadcast; 3) the marine extended outlook will be a part of the Coastal Waters Forecast. The most important feature is expected to be that it will broadcast and tone-alert Severe Thunderstorm/Tornado/Flash Flood Warnings immediately when they are issued; typically there can be a 1-minute delay by manually recording these. Also, it recognizes "severe weather mode" and automatically shortens the broadcast cycle such that you'll only hear the watches, warnings, and pertinent info. We are looking into the possibility of broadcasting live for extended periods of time -- during a hurricane, for example.

NWS - Taunton Amateur Radio SKYWARN Operations Greatly Improved

...written by Robert Macedo, KD1CY, NWS-Taunton SKYWARN Coordinator

The amateur radio operations at NWS-Taunton have greatly improved over the past 2 years. Currently, we have a Kenwood Dual Band 2 meter/440 MHz radio connected to a Comet GP-15 6 meter/2meter/440 MHz antenna. Also, we have an Icom IC-28A hooked up to a Cushcraft AR2-X vertical antenna. This radio and antenna system is running APRS DOS Version 8.14 with a Kantronics KPC-3 TNC and a 486 DX2 PC. APRS is the Automated Packet Reporting System. This software allows digital retransmission of weather station information from many common home weather stations. This information is automatically retransmitted every 10 minutes and can be queried on demand by other APRS stations. An important additional piece of equipment is the Alinco DX-70TH, a 6 meter and HF (10 meter-160 meter) radio. The 6 meter capability allows us to directly communicate with stations at the far reaches of NWS-Taunton's County Warning Area, which includes northern Connecticut, western Massachusetts (excluding Berkshire County), and much of southern New Hampshire. (This is in addition to areas coverable on 2 meters.) The Comet GP-15 antenna is used for the 6 meter capability on this radio. The 2 meter/440 MHz bands allow coverage across Rhode Island, southeast Connecticut, and all of eastern and central Massachusetts, including the Cape and Islands. We are currently looking into ways of implementing the HF capability at the Taunton office.

We have 14 ham operators who can be called to operate the station at NWS-Taunton. Anyone who is interested in operating the Amateur Radio Station at NWS-Taunton or who would like to get on my SKYWARN Newsletter e-mail list can e-mail me at: . Thanks to all for their interest in SKYWARN! [Note from Glenn Field: So far, Rob Macedo has issued more than 100 Newsletters to more than 300 spotters on his e-mail list. Since the Prevailing Winds can't be issued nearly as often, this is a great opportunity to see what is happening in SKYWARN on an almost weekly basis. ]