NWS-TAUNTON, MA                                     SPRING/SUMMER 2000


Robert M. Thompson,

[The following appeared in the last issue, too. We have reprinted it because you, our Spotters, are so valuable to us!]

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.

Written and edited by: Glenn Field, WCM
Newsletter design by: Alexis Andronikos, former ASA, NWS Taunton, MA

2000 Skywarn Training

Thanks to the hard work of several people, training sites have been almost completely finalized for this year. It is recommended to be re-trained every two years. There are a few spotters who still have the older numbers, dating back to before 1994, assigned by the Providence, Worcester, Hartford, or Concord WSO’s, which no longer exist. If you are one of these people and you do not attend training this season, we will be forced to remove you from our database. You now must be at least 16 years of age to become a spotter.

All sessions below are from 7-10 PM in the evening:

APRIL 12 FOXBORO, MA (Norfolk Co.)
    Foxboro Company’s Bristol Park Cafeteria
    Rt. 140 across from Bradlees/Papa Gino’s plaza

APRIL 24 WOONSOCKET, RI (Providence Co.)
    Bernon Heights School

APRIL 26 SHIRLEY, MA (Middlesex Co.)
    Lura A. White Elem. School, 34 Lancaster Road

MAY 2 HUNTINGTON, MA (Hampshire Co.)
    Gateway Regional High School, Littleville Road
    (Route 112)

MAY 10 WEST BOYLSTON, MA (Worcester Co.)
    Central MA Safety Council, Wachusett Plaza
    186 West Boylston Street (Route 12)

MAY 11 MANSFIELD, CT (Tolland Co.)
    E.O. Smith High School, 1235 Storrs Road

MAY 16 LEXINGTON, MA (Middlesex Co.)
    Location to be determined

MAY 17 MILFORD, NH (Hillsborough Co.)
    Milford High School

MAY 24 NEWINGTON, CT (Hartford Co.)
    Old Newington Children’s Hospital Amphitheater
    Curtis Professional Bldg., 181 East Cedar Street



In Spring & Summer, please report:

  • Tornadoes or funnel clouds
  • Wall clouds — specify whether rotating
  • Hail — specify the size
  • Wind gusts > 40 mph from thunderstorms
  • Structural damage (trees/wires down; large branches down (specify  the diameter of       branches); roof or window damage, etc.)
  • Rainfall of 1" or greater in an hour (not a 1"/hr rate for 10 minutes)
  • Rainfall total of 2" or more
  • Flooding of small streams (also when nearing bankfull)
  • Street flooding (when more than just the usual poor drainage puddles)
skywarn.gif (4108 bytes)
Some Reporting Problems/Suggestions

We rely on your reports to help us issue...or not issue... Warnings to help protect lives and property. While most SKYWARN reports are very timely and accurate, we continue to receive several calls for events that do not meet the above criteria. Please keep in mind that your exact wording can be critical. Some examples are:

  • A "DRIZZLE SHOWER" at my house
  • "It’s the hardest rain I have ever seen in my entire life."
  • "Severe lightning"

During Tropical Storm Floyd last September, we received a report that "Every stream in my county is in flood." Without access to a helicopter, this certainly seemed exaggerated.

Hail has been reported several times during the winter, in the absence of thunderstorms or showery type of precipitation. The reports should have been sleet, or ice pellets, which form when rain falls through a thick enough cold layer near the ground.

Some of the previous years’ spotter cards listed approximate wind speeds at which branches sway, twigs are snapped, etc. (Beaufort Scale). The wind has been reported to us, therefore, as "39 to 46 mph." It is quite important for you to state whether this is an estimated wind or a measured wind gust, since 46 mph is the threshold for the issuance of our "Wind Advisory."

During the winter, we have been told many times that "roads are treacherous." Please be more specific. Side roads? Main roads? Cars slowing down? Cars spinning around/sliding? Not plowed yet? Etc.


1. Tropical Storm Floyd (Sept. 16-17, 1999)

At one point, Floyd was a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale.  It caused much loss of life from flooding in North Carolina. Luckily for New England, it had weakened to tropical storm strength by the time it moved northward along the coast...into western Connecticut, then moving northeast across Massachusetts. Flooding rains occurred in Connecticut and western Massachusetts, along and west of Floyd’s track. Bristol, CT reported 10.80" of rain; Southwick, MA had 9.16"; and Whately, MA had 7.70" . Wind gusts of 60 to 70 mph were common along the south coast, but the New Bedford Hurricane Barrier (elevation 95 ft.) had a wind gust to 76 mph.

2. Snowstorm on Feb. 24-25, 1999

Southeastern Massachusetts bore the brunt of this storm. A whopping 18"-24" occurred on Cape Cod & the Islands.  Harwich had 24"; 20" in West Dennis; 19" in South Edgartown on the Vineyard; and 17" even on Nantucket! A foot of snow was common over the rest of eastern MA and RI.

3. Summer Drought - this ended with moisture from Tropical Storm Floyd.


It’s that time again...every 2 years, NWS-Taunton hosts a spectacular Open House. This year, it will be held



at our office at 445 Myles Standish Blvd. (exit 9 off I-495) in

Taunton. More than 3,000 people came both in 1998 and 1996.

It’s far more than just a tour of the forecast office. Tents are set up outside, with many different venues. Slide shows on severe storms and hurricanes will be given every half-hour. Internet demonstrations will be given. There are weather balloon launches. A coloring contest for kids. Meet the Thermometer Man from Cape Cod, who has a museum of thousands of thermometers. Want to learn about amateur radio — speak with our ham coordinators. Presentations about River Forecasting will be given. The FEMA multi-radio response vehicle will be here again, provided it is not needed for a true crisis elsewhere in the

world. Other weather/safety related agencies will be here, such as the MA Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey, Blue Hill Observatory, the American Red Cross, and the MA Coastal Zone Management (from Exec. Office of Environmental Affairs). Interested in studying the weather? Speak with representatives from U-Mass at Lowell’s Meteorology Department.

Also, there will be a few door prizes for some lucky winners.

Sounds great? See you there! [Nice weather is planned.]

Project: WIND

There are many factors that can lead to a significant variability in wind gust values. A few examples include: sampling rate of anemometer (1 second averaging vs. 2 or 3 second averaging); size of the cup;  Where it is mounted — roof mounting can exaggerate speeds since air blowing up roof; length of wire strung can cause additional resistance; topography of surrounding area. Mountings on a stand-alone tower are best. Because of the variability, we have differentiated between "official NWS/FAA ASOS sites" and "other sources," such as SKYWARN," in our Public Information Statements. This should not diminish the importance of SKYWARN wind reports, however.

We would appreciate information about your wind equipment, especially siting and brand name/sampling rate. See phone # or email directly below this article.

2000 Hurricane Names
Alberto Leslie
Beryl Michael
Chris Nadine
Debby Oscar
Ernesto Patty
Florence Rafael
Gordon Sandy
Helene Tony
Isaac Valerie
Joyce William
When was the last reported tornado in Worcester County?

— F0 tornado on 8/10/90 !

If you move or change your phone number, please notify Glenn Field at 508-823-1983 or


Last year, we added the 6-meter capability, which allows us to directly reach farther into our County Warning Area of responsibility. Recently, we added paging software, which allows our coordinators to be paged from our office now. — useful for SKYWARN activations. Also, the PC that runs the APRS system will soon be upgraded from a 486 to a low-grade Pentium, which will allow the Windows version of APRS to run. We still are looking into ways to get the valuable HF antennas installed...the process has not been as simple as it might seem. Approximately one-third of our spotters are amateur radio operators...and they do a great job!

The automated voice of NOAA Weather Radio will be improving. National Weather Service Headquarters has decided to upgrade the system a concatenated voice. The two best voices in the NWS will spend a lot of time in Washington recording towns and cities and all words that could be used in meteorological products, etc. Although the voice will still be automated, it will sound more like your bank telephone recording...much more like a human. This system is being field tested at two sites this summer. The goal is to have it make its debut for severe weather warnings by Fall, 2001 and for all products in the 2002-2003 time frame.

For those of you who bought the more expensive, programmable NOAA Weather Radios from your favorite electronics outlet...then were confused at why it never alarmed this is some good news.

These newer radios utilize what is called SAME (Specific Area Message Encoder) technology. We, at the NWS, have the ability to issue the regular 1050 Hz tone alarm (that triggers the lower-grade models) independently of the SAME encoding. In other words, while we still do not wish to issue a tone alarm (1050 Hz) and wake everyone up at 3:00 AM for the fact that a Winter Storm Watch has been issued (for a storm that might come tomorrow), we will now trigger the SAME tones. This will send off an alert only for those radios which have been programmed to receive Winter Storm Watches and that have the alarm "on" and not disabled for the night.

Other products that will now be "SAMEd" for the programmable radios include Winter Storm Warnings and High Wind Warnings.


Penelope Thompson, wife of NWS Meteorologist-In-Charge Bob Thompson, recently lost the battle with ovarian cancer. She was in her mid 40s. Pen, who also was a federal government worker, often helped with NWS office activities, such as the Open House. But most importantly, she was the backbone of love and support for Bob.

Dawn Cummings, long-time Cooperative Observer and amateur radio coordinator for Cheshire County, NH, succumbed to a heart attack. She was in her early 50s. Dawn was a ham since

Age 15, a member of many wireless organizations, and a volunteer for the American Red Cross.

Both touched our lives in many ways and will be sorely missed.


MONDAY MAY 15 2000

730 PM EDT

Jason Franklin and Glenn Field will discuss severe weather in southern New England, how severe weather is forecast, and the Doppler Radar.

Tornadoes never strike big cities, right?

Wrong! There is nothing preventing a big city strike. Just ask the people in Fort Worth, TX (3/28/00); Milwaukee, WI (3/8/00); Salt Lake City, UT (8/11/99); Oklahoma City, OK (5/3/99); Cincinnati, OH (4/9/99); Little Rock, AR (1/21/99); Nashville, TN (4/16/98); Birmingham, AL (4/8/98); Daytona Beach, FL (2/22/98); Miami, FL (2/2/97); Tampa, FL (12/7/96). Farther back in history, Worcester, MA (June, 1953 – 94 dead); St. Louis, MO (May, 1896 – 400 dead); Natchez, MS (> 300 dead)...and many others.