U.S. Department of Commerce
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
National Weather Service
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE - Our Mission
The National Weather Service (NWS)
provides weather, hydrologic and climate forecasts and warnings for the
United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas for the
protection of life and property and enhancement of the national economy.
NWS data and products form a national informational data base and infrastructure,
which can be used by other government agencies, the private sector, the
public and the global community.
FORECAST OFFICE -State College, PA
Take a Virtual Tour of our office!
Serving 33 counties in central
Pennsylvania. See a map of our area of responsibility.
The NWS Forecast Office in State College
opened its door in May 1993. Presently, there are about 25 employees (see our Staff Page) who
serve 33 counties in central Pennsylvania.
The Office Management Team oversees
all office activities.
Our Forecasters and Hydrometeorological
Technicians work on rotating shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to
produce all the forecast and warning products issued by the office. (Incoming
meteorological and hydrological data, including river and stream gage information,
also are monitored around the clock.)
Electronic Systems Analyst and Technicians
ensure that all electronic equipment is functioning properly.
Volunteer Cooperative Weather Observers
provide daily local weather and river reports from around central Pennsylvania.
This network of volunteer observers is coordinated by the NWS Forecast
Office in State College.
Warnings, Advisories and Outlooks
Our most important function is to issue
weather forecasts, watches, warnings and advisories for the 33-county service
area in central Pennsylvania. Weather forecasts are issued four times daily
for every county, with updates as needed. Warnings, advisories, watches
and outlooks are issued when hazardous weather is expected or is occurring.
Hazardous weather events include tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, flooding,
snow and ice storms, high winds, extreme heat and cold, freezes and frosts.
Warnings & Advisories:
issued when event is occurring or imminent, generally within the next 12
Watches: issued when event could
occur within 12 to 48 hours.
Outlooks (long-term): issued when
event could occur beyond 1 or 2 days.
Specialized aviation forecasts tailored
for pilots also are issued for the following central Pennsylvania airports:
Bradford Regional; Johnstown; Altoona; University Park (State College);
Williamsport; and Middletown (Harrisburg).
To ensure that we remain responsive to
the needs of our customers, we support a large warning coordination and
outreach program, which is lead by the Warning and Coordination Meteorologist.
Among the many program activities, we:
(1) ensure the quality of our products;
(2) ensure that the products are being
received by our customers;
and (3) maintain our large volunteer severe
weather spotter network, along with public service and education.
Our customers include the general public,
along with local, county and state emergency management agencies and officials.
To improve forecast and warning services
for our central Pennsylvania service area, we are involved in various science
research projects, which are coordinated by the Science Operations Officer.
Given our convenient location adjacent to the Pennsylvania State University
and the Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center, we are able to collaborate
with researchers from both organizations.
Research projects range from observational
studiesÐdesigned to increase our understanding of how severe weather
occurs in PennsylvaniaÐto developing local, small-scale models of the
atmosphere customized for our area.
HOW THE PUBLIC RECEIVES OUR PRODUCTS
There is a wide range of dissemination systems
available for the public to receive our products (forecasts, watches and
warnings). The NWS web pages are the easiest way to get all the data we can provide.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Weather Radio (NWR) is probably the most reliable way to receive the fastest and most
up-to-date weather information.
The Emergency Alert System (EAS) receives
specific hazardous weather warnings via NOAA weather radio, then relays
those warnings directly to all TV and radio stations. TV stations can then
display the warnings automatically, using a system that scrolls the printed
warnings along the bottom of the screen. County and local emergency management
agencies receive our warnings via specialized software packages such as
the Emergency Management Weather Information Network and NOAA Weather Wire
Service. Our routine, daily products (forecasts, climatological summaries, etc.) are available to every TV and radio station in central Pennsylvania.
The technology available to forecast offices
has increased dramatically since the early 1990s. The big improvement in
technology coincided with the National Weather ServiceÕs modernization
and associated restructuring, which was completed by the year 2000.
During the modernization, powerful "Doppler"
radars were deployed, providing radar coverage across the nation -- allowing forecasters to diagnose potentially severe storms by examining
the structure and internal motions of the storms.
The Doppler radar serving central Pennsylvania
is located on Rattlesnake mountain in Black Moshanon State Forest northwest
of State College.
The Advanced Weather Interactive Processing
System (AWIPS) is a state-of-the-art computer system deployed at the State
College forecast office in the late 1990s. Forecasters use this system
to view numerous meteorological data sets simultaneously. The system allows
forecasters to compare observations, satellite and radar data to computer
model forecast data, in order to produce more accurate forecasts.
NOAA Weather Radio 2000 also was deployed
in late 1998. This automated voice system disseminates weather warnings
more quickly than the previous manually produced broadcasts.
January 1994 Cold and Snow - An all-time
record low temperature of -22F on the 21st was set in Harrisburg, PA. Cold
and heavy snow also was reported throughout the month across all of central
Weather Events 1994-1999
March 1994 Snowstorm - Heavy snow
fell on the 2nd and 3rd, with totals of 10 to 28 inches over the central
mountains of Pennsylvania.
November 1995 Snowstorm - Heavy
snow fell across the central mountains on the 15th with totals of 10 to
32 inches. Massive tree damage occurred throughout central Pennsylvania
as some leaves were still on the trees.
January 1996 Blizzard - Heavy snow
fell on the 6th and 7th with 2 to 3 feet reported over the lower Susquehanna
January 1996 Flood - Severe flooding
occurred when 1 to 3 inches of rain combined with strong winds and unusually
warm temperatures to melt a record snow pack. Seventeen deaths were related
directly to the flooding.
June 1996 Gettysburg Flash Flood -
A Flash flood produced over 10 inches of rain in just a few hours near
May/June 1998 Tornadoes - A series
of tornadoes swept across central Pennsylvania on May 31st and again on
June 2nd. Somerset County was hit by 3 tornadoes in 3 days, including two
F3 tornadoes (winds of 158-206 mph). Some areas had damaging winds from
2 separate tornadoes just a couple of hours apart on the 2nd.
July 1999 Heat and Drought - A
severe drought was accompanied by extreme heat over the lower Susquehanna
Valley. Harrisburg reported 22 days above 90 degrees in July, with 6 days
of 100 degrees or higher.
September 1999 Tropical Storms Dennis
and Floyd - Tropical Storm Dennis produced localized heavy rains on
the 6th, with 8 inches and massive flooding reported at Lewisburg. Tropical
Storm Floyd followed on the 16th, dropping 5 to 10 inches of rain on the
lower Susquehanna Valley.
NWS FORECAST OFFICE HISTORY
State College, PA
May 1993....Opened office
October 1993....Installed radar
August 1994....Issued first short-term
forecasts and warnings
December 1994....Started issuing
Fall 1995....Started issuing aviation
Spring 1998....Achieved present
Fall 1998....Assumed all the forecasting
responsibilities of a modernized NWS office
Dec 2005....Moved to new location in PSU Innovation Park