Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Letter from U.S. House Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee to NOAA

“I am deeply concerned by the termination of the NWS Sandy Service Assessment Team,” Chairman Broun said. “Not only does the Subcommittee want to know why the team was disbanded and when a new assessment will be initiated, we want to be assured that the future assessment will be truly independent and have access to all necessary information and staff.”  

Above is an excerpt of a letter from the U.S. House to the Administrator of NOAA. This came to my attention during the last few minutes.

The full letter can be viewed here.

8 comments:

  1. I really don't understand why the feeling is that these people did not have sufficient warning. This thing was talked about for days in advance and I don't know how much would have changed without forced evacuations. I mean seriously, I live in Kansas City and I even shut the windows on the east side of the house when Sandy came ashore. The semantics of hurricane vs Nor'easter should not have changed things one iota. They were told repeatedly that their life was endangered and yet they remained in harms way. What more can you do?

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  2. Bill,

    Read this posting: http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-weather-channels-bryan-norcross-on.html It says in part:

    "Also, we now know that an untold number of New York City firefighters and policemen stayed in their homes near the water, only to end up leaving in the middle of the storm in a nightmare evacuation... lashing family members together to hang on through the raging water. These are people that understand that really bad crap happens in the world. You'd think that an NYC firefighter, if anybody, would have taken action to protect his family if he understood that the ocean was going to come surging through the house. That was exactly the forecast, but that, obviously, did not come through in the messaging."

    The issue wasn't that there wasn't warning but that it was confusing.

    Mike

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  3. I live in the tri state area and I didn't see anything confusing about the warnings. They were extremely clear: a massive storm was on the way, with a huge storm surge, very high winds, an extremely dangerous situation. There will always be people who ignore warnings -- the people who ignored the very explicit warnings about Katrina, the folks who stayed on the barrier islands in NJ after repeated warnings etc. Maybe the fact that hurricane Irene turned out to be less severe than expected in NYC was a factor.


    This seems like a witch hunt to me. The NWS (with which I have no affiliation, to be clear) did a very good job of tracking and warning communities in advance. They deserve commendations for that, not politically motivated attacks. There will always be people who ignore warnings.

    Shall we start investigating overhyped weather warnings by private companies now ?

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  4. Hi Resnickj,

    Glad the warnings were clear to you. They were not to Mayor Bloomberg and others.

    There was never nor would there be a "witch hunt." Just like the NTBS investigates all airline accidents with a goal of making sure things are safer/better in the future, the National Weather Service does a Service Assessment after every major storm with the same goal. What mades the situation curious was the way the NWS spun up the (routine) Sandy Assessment then "terminated" it -- something that had never been done before -- and then provided some rather odd reasons for doing so.

    Had the NWS allowed the Assessment to go forward, none of this would be occurring and it would not be making news.

    Mike

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  5. There will always be people who refuse to acknowledge any warning, even very explicit ones (such as the warning before Hurricane Katrina). There were people on the NJ barrier islands after Christie was yelling at them to evacuate. And Bloomberg did order evacuations on the 28th, clearly a lot of people still chose to ignore this warning. Perhaps Mayor Bloomberg was influenced by Irene, where he did call for evacuations (but the impact turned out to be less than expected).

    The point is that I don't think the NWS can be blamed when people refuse to follow explicit warnings, any more than Christie can be blamed for people who refuse to evacuate the barrier islands. The issue of whether Sandy should have been called a 'hurricane' or not seems like a largely semantic and minor issue.

    Perhaps witch hunt is an extreme phrase, but focusing on this minor semantic matter seems to me to be misplaced at best. I note that Chairman Broun did not at any point praise the NWS for the fine work done in forecasting Sandy in his letter.

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  6. Resnickj,

    Not sure why you are telling me this unless you have not read my coverage of this issue in this entirety. See:

    http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2012/10/this-was-their-finest-hour.html

    http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2012/11/this-was-our-finest-hour-ii.html

    http://meteorologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2012/11/nws-pays-for-itself-again.html

    You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who publicly praises the NWS more than yours truly. That said, we can always learn to do better as the science advances. That was the purpose of the (routine) Service Assessment which would have been fair and thorough.

    It is the NWS that has drawn (perhaps unwarranted) attention to itself by deviating from its standard procedure after a major storm and its complete failure to provide a satisfactory explanation for its unusual actions.

    Mike

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  7. I find it interesting that the Committee used your blog as the initiator for their letter and more importantly, who directed the NWS to "stand down" (refering to the "other" possible multi-agency review).

    On a different note regardingthe comments concerning the FDNY.....there has now been filed an action by the firefighters and officers of FDNY against the EMS Chief of FDNY for failing to adhere to written protocol and policy regarding exactly what you are referencing. http://www.warningsbook.com/home.cfm It will also be interesting to see where that leads.

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  8. Mr. Smith

    To be clear, I was not criticizing you. I was criticizing the Chairman for indulging in what definitely seems like political grandstanding (indeed, my recollection is that his relationship with the NOAA has been, shall we say, stormy).

    I agree that an outside,impartial review would serve a useful purpose. I am just concerned that politicians in NJ and NY may use this as an opportunity to indulge in CYA by blaming the NWS. In the final analysis, I think the very explicit warnings issued by the NWS, 5 days before landfall should have alerted everyone that a very dangerous storm was on the way, whether it should be called a hurricane or not.
    Of course, some residents on NY and NJ may have been jaded because they evacuated unnecessarily during Irene.

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