Local weather service gets tech boost

Posted: Monday, July 24, 2000

Juneau can expect new technologies to increase the ease and accuracy of weather predictions, the director of the National Weather Service says.

``We've modernized the weather service and for the first time, the equipment the folks have in Alaska is the same as the Lower 48,'' said John Kelly Jr., who visited Juneau last week.

Achieving this equality of technology was one of the goals of a recent weather service modernization; the new technology came to Juneau about a year ago.

``The accuracy and the lead time on the forecast are better,'' Kelly said.

During his visit, Kelly met with Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer and talked with representatives of groups that use weather service information.

``I get a better understanding of what our users like and what they think can be done better (through such meetings,)'' Kelly said.

At the Juneau meeting, representatives of marine and aviation interests emphasized the importance of weather forecasts and the quick dissemination of weather information to fishermen and pilots. Groups that forecast avalanches and work with wind measuring devices were also present to voice their concerns.

In addition, Juneau, like the rest of Alaska, presents unique forecasting difficulties. There are vast climatic differences across the state, complex terrain, a large amount of coastline and widespread population centers. Having visited, Kelly said he better understands these issues.

``You get an idea of the size of the state as you fly over it,'' he said. ``I've discovered how complicated it is to forecast weather here with these mountains.''

With this information in mind, Kelly thinks a number of new weather service programs may prove useful in Alaska.

``We have a program called `Storm Ready,' which is an effort to work with the emergency community to get the messages out,'' he said.

Kelly discussed the program, which started a few months ago in North Carolina and Kansas, with Ulmer.

``She thought it was a worthwhile plan to implement it,'' he said.

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