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NEW FORECAST TOOL GIVES COMMUNITIES CRITICAL ‘HEADS UP' TO POTENTIAL RIVER FLOOD THREATS

NOAA image of Minnesota River flooding at Jordan looking north on April 18, 2001.September 1, 2001 — With three months left in Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA will test a new river flood warning tool in coastal states from New Jersey to Texas—the states most vulnerable to torrential rains from tropical storms and hurricanes. (Click on NOAA image for larger view of Minnesota River flooding at Jordan looking north on April 18, 2001.)

NOAA's National Weather Service will begin issuing on Sept. 1, a new five-day flood outlook that identifies areas at risk of significant river flooding. The outlooks provide emergency managers and the public with a graphical display based on forecasts from regional river forecast centers and NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Protection meteorological models.

"Inland flooding has replaced storm surge as the number one killer from hurricanes and tropical storms. The key to preventing such deaths is being forewarned," said John Jones, deputy director of the National Weather Service. "This new flood forecast will give emergency managers and communities the time they need to prepare for rising waters."

Over the past 50 years, flooding caused an average of almost $4 billion in damages and took more than 100 lives per year in the United States—more than any other severe weather-related event. The 2001 hurricane season has brought four named tropical storms including Tropical Storm Allison, the costliest tropical storm in U.S. history, which claimed at least 33 lives and caused damages in excess of $5 billion. NOAA forecasters suggest the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast will see a total of nine to 12 tropical storms, six to eight hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes by season's end Nov. 30.

"We want to give our users enough warning to help save lives and minimize property damage," said John Feldt, hydrologist in charge for NOAA's Southeast River Forecast Center. "The developmental product proved valuable in warning communities of major flooding from Hurricane Floyd two years ago. This gives us an opportunity to produce long-term outlooks so the public can anticipate and prepare for potential flooding."

The weather service will test the new outlook over the next several months before making it operational by the end of the year. The first operational testing stage will begin in September and will show areas where significant river flooding is considered possible or likely from Texas to New Jersey. This information will be accessible via the Internet to the public, as well as to emergency managers and state and local officials to assist in identifying possible flood danger during the height of hurricane season.

For the second test phase in October, all 13 NOAA river forecast centers covering the lower 48 states and Alaska will provide five-day flood outlooks for their areas of responsibility on their respective Web sites. An additional map showing flood potential for the contiguous 48 states will be available through the NOAA Weather Wire Service, Emergency Managers Weather Information Network, NOAA Port, the Family of Services and the NOAA Web site.

The 13 river forecast centers throughout the United States enable the weather service to focus locally on unique hydrologic conditions, including the potential impact of future precipitation on river levels. During the winter, the effects of river ice, ice jams, and snowmelt will also be considered.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather and flood forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NWS operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA's New Flood Outlook Product

NOAA's River Forecast Centers

NOAA's Flood Links

NOAA's Inland Flooding

NOAA's Emergency Managers Weather Information Network


NOAA's National Weather Service

NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Protection

Media Contact:
Curtis Carey, NOAA's National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622