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Posted September 24, 2012 | comments 1 Comment

Editorial: Are you ready for the next storm?

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National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein, center, keeps a close eye on several computer screens in the forecasting room at the NWS office in Sterling. Visitors to an open house over the weekend were invited to take a tour of the forecasting room. Linda Ash/Daily

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From left, National Weather Service meteorologist Jared Klein, NWS Meteorologist-in-Charge James E. Lee, Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere and National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administrator Jane Lubchenco, WJLA-TV lead meteorologist Bob Ryan, and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) gather in the NWS forecasting room in Sterling during an Open House on Saturday. Linda Ash/Daily

NOAA aims to build weather-ready nation through technology, partnerships, public

Don't let this week's lovely fall weather lull you into complacency. Winter is just three months away, and rain, wind, ice or snow may turn into an extreme weather event that we'll have to deal with sooner rather than later.

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office in Sterling has launched a Weather-Ready Nation program to enhance weather forecasts for the region. The initiative was highlighted during an open house held this past weekend in Sterling.

NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco told visitors on Saturday that the Sterling office is one of six in the country to participate in the Weather-Ready Nation pilot program. The program adds three new emergency response specialists to the forecast office and focuses on upgrading technology and building and strengthening relationships with local, state and the federal government emergency responders, universities and the media.

Lubchenco said extreme weather headlines have dominated the airwaves over the past few years.

"As we look around the country right now, the United States is currently in the worst drought since the 1950s, and this year will likely end up as the warmest on record for the country.

"A year ago, Hurricane Irene caused havoc along the Eastern Seaboard, and this year another "I" storm, Isaac, hit the Gulf Coast with flooding rains.

"In our region here, the word 'derecho' has now become part of our vocabulary
and it left its imprint in many of our back yards ... so make no mistake, it is really imperative that we be prepared for these and other extreme weather and water events."

Extreme weather can have a huge impact on our communities and our economy. Lubchenco said NOAA is "laser-focused" on warning Americans and providing information they need "to make the smartest decision to protect themselves from severe weather."

She said it takes a team effort to become a weather-ready nation, from the multiple teams within NOAA, to partnerships with media and emergency managers, to public engagement. She urged open house visitors to become personally prepared for the next disaster.

"So I ask and invite each of you to become a force of nature," she said.

Here at the Daily, we take NOAA's mission to become a weather-ready nation very seriously. We rely upon the NWS forecasts to warn our readers when extreme weather threatens them. It is comforting to know that we have more than two dozen people at the Sterling office to watch over all of us, 24/7, 365 days a year. By us, we mean 44 counties in Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Our website's Weather section, nvdaily.com/weather, displays NWS forecasts and weather alerts as soon as they are posted. It also features a real-time iMap radar that allows online readers to track storms moving into New Market, Strasburg, Front Royal, Stephens City and other local towns in our area. It's especially helpful for those who commute to the Washington, D.C., area.

We will gladly partner with NOAA to help keep you informed about extreme weather and its impact on your community by way of news reports on nvdaily.com, breaking email news alerts and Facebook postings.

We'd like to urge you to help us cover extreme weather events by letting us know what is happening in your neighborhoods. Send us an email to info@nvdaily.com, or post a note on our Facebook page, facebook.com/daily. Or give us a call at 540-465-5137 and tell us what it looks like outside your window.

It may be sunny today, but tomorrow may be a different story. As Lubchenco noted on Saturday, "just as one storm can devastate a community, one ready person can save a life."

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