Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hurricane forecasters' emergency network system going public

Hurricane forecasters' emergency network system going public

By Arlene Satchez
South Florida Sun-Sentinel"

It gave us the best opportunity to raise money and make it a viable business," said Norcross of the dealwith publicly traded Brampton.

Norcross, WFOR's hurricane specialist, will be company president and chief executive officer. With almost 40 years in broadcasting, he's experienced some of the frustrations caused by a communications disconnect among the media, government and the community during a disaster.

He became known in South Florida after delivering around-the-clock coverage when Hurricane Andrew hit sections of Miami-Dade County in August 1992.

Mayfield, who retired last year from the hurricane center, spent 34 years with the National Weather Service and is the hurricane specialist for WPLG-Ch. 10. He'll be senior vice president of government relations, working with emergency management agencies.

Despite the media's best efforts during a disaster, there are not enough reporters to cover all emergency operation centers in affected areas, Mayfield said.

The inability for emergency managers to communicate with the public or with other government agencies during disasters can hinder rescue or relief efforts.

Case in point: Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. The federal government's lack of response in devastated areas of the Gulf Coast immediately after the hurricane triggered national outrage.

The forecasters worked with Jackson, Miss.-based technology company Global Security Systems to develop blueprints for a communications network that is expected to fill crucial gaps in emergency management communications nationally.

Global Security's Alert FM system, a segment of the network, uses signals from local FM stations to transmit messages instantly to the community or a target audience. Information can also be sent as text or voice messages to mobile phones.

The communications network also will include a Web site with video footage and advisories from emergency management offices and other government agencies (free to the public) and a TV channel, broadcasting news conferences and other critical information.

Online segments of the network will be tested in April and May in nine emergency management locations, most of which will be in South Florida, and a new satellite system to broadcast videos should be running by June 1, in time for hurricane season, Norcross said.

To seal the deal, Brampton exchanged 100 million of its common stock shares. A recent $1 million private placement of Brampton shares will also be used to finance the emergency network and shareholders are expected to vote on the deal in June. Pending approval, the merged company will be renamed The AEN Group Inc.

"I believe the public will buy into this," Mayfield said. "It'll be my true legacy when all is said and done. I'm really committed to making it happen."

Arlene Satchell can be reached at or 954-356-4209.


Preparing for spring severe weather

Sentinel-Standard writer
Published: Monday, March 31, 2008 11:28 PM CDT

ONIA - April showers bring May flowers, but they can also bring severe weather that can have a negative impact on residents across Ionia County.

“I think everyone should be preparing for severe weather right now,” Ionia County Emergency Management Coordinator Rick Norman said.

According to information released from the State of Michigan, in 2007 there were 11 injuries and four deaths as a result of severe weather.
Additionally, severe weather resulted in about $150 million in property damage across the state during the same time period.

To prepare for this year's onslaught of potential severe weather, officials are beginning to keep their proverbial eye to the sky.

Norman said he keeps in touch with the National Weather Service on a frequent basis and they have special meetings if severe weather is imminent.

In addition to keeping in touch with the weather service, local residents can play an integral role in helping warn residents about dangerous weather.

There will be a special training session held 7 p.m. April 10 at the Ionia County Intermediate School District facility to train people to become severe weather spotters.

“I would guess about 40 to 60 people will take the training,” Norman said.<>

People without a amateur radio can call or use the Internet to make reports to the weather service.

“The National Weather Service is able to issue localized warnings based on that stuff,” Norman said of the weather reports.

These warnings include outdoor sirens, television messages and alerts on the radio.

“You can't rely on one method of warning for severe weather,” Norman said.

He also said that in the future there will be the opportunity to notify people of impending severe weather via the City Watch system, which could potentially warn people with text messages and phone calls.

To close for comfort!

Experts say faulty storm predictions get too much press

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, April 03, 2008

ORLANDO — Is too much Gray clouding hurricane forecasts?

Some storm experts think so. And on Wednesday, they urged the news media to pay less attention to the hurricane season predictions that have made veteran researcher William Gray one of the nation's most prominent weather prognosticators.

The problem, the critics say: Gray's forecasts have been wrong in the past few seasons, predicting too few hurricanes for the record-setting 2005 season and too many storms since.

In addition, they say the hoopla about Gray's number of projected storms obscures the urgent message of preparing for every season - even the quiet ones.

The criticism emerged at the National Hurricane Conference, an annual gathering where Gray is one of the brightest stars and traditionally gives the closing speech.

"I think the seasonal forecasts are a travesty for us to show," meteorologist Jim Cantore, a popular storm chaser for The Weather Channel, said during a morning chat session. "That's something we need to stop doing."

Jim Poling of the Florida News Network agreed: "I really like the idea of not publishing Dr. Gray's forecast. ... I think it's part of the hype."

Bob Breck, a longtime television meteorologist in New Orleans, even argued that Gray's predictions bite homeowners with higher insurance premiums.

"The insurance companies are using these numbers to keep our rates high," Breck said.

Gray shrugged off the brickbats, saying he's used to receiving "hate mail" for his work. He attributes much of it to the past two quiet seasons.

"Wait till we have an active season - then they'll change their minds," said Gray, a Colorado State University researcher whose next forecast comes out Tuesday.

His predictions draw on clues such as ocean temperatures and global air currents. After each season, Gray and his team publish an analysis of where they went wrong.

"I'm amazed what I've learned over 25 years," he said.

Gray's defenders include former National Hurricane Center Director Neil Frank, who said the forecasts have performed well in predicting whether a season will be calmer or busier than average.

"He's been very, very good," said Frank, who led the center from 1974 to 1987. "But it's a forecast, which means you're going to have some errors."

Bill Read, the new director, declined to comment on Gray's work. But he said the center's parent agency will seek less publicity than usual when it issues its own hurricane-season forecast later this spring.

Read urged the media to push a different message: "It only takes one storm to ruin your day."