July 7, 2008
Weather Center Ready For Season
With the start of another hurricane season, Florida residents once again are thinking more about emergency preparedness. Reminded by past storms that have caused extensive damage, the need of evacuations or the loss of lives makes many wonder what this season might bring. But while year after year local residents are provided with safety tips, along with valuable and often lifesaving information usually days in advance of a major storm, especially hurricanes, members of the National Weather Service are hard at work providing information to residents through the media with every hiccup that appears in the sky.Also known as the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), located right in the heart of Ruskin just about 23 miles southeast of Tampa, the organization offers residents all the necessary information 24 hours a day.Commenting on behalf of the 26 employees about what drives them to do their jobs, Lead Meteorologist Michael Cantin said, “It is my passion to work with everyone here at the center in order to save people and provide help during a weather emergency.” The facility was built in the summer of 1994 and became operational in March of 1995, consisting of a number of specific stations that focus on the various aspects of reading the weather. Cantin explained that the facility, which was strategically placed at its current location, includes a mix of scientists, technicians, information technology specialists, electronics techs as well as a crew of administrative staff.Besides the short-term weather desk, the Hydro Met desk or the Now Cast station, which provides the media and the public with current updates of the overall forecast in the general area, one can see Tony Reynes monitoring the long-term, three to seven-day forecast, providing information to five airports in the center’s vicinity as well as giving fire/weather updates to local law enforcement.Cantin said that on a typical day the staff is limited to just three meteorologists on-hand per shift. “During a hurricane everyone works 12-hour shifts,” he said. The building itself is rated to endure a category three hurricane but anything above that requires the staff to evacuate as well. It is interesting to note that while some have access to weather monitoring equipment, the NWS is the only entity authorized to issue a warning.The center welcomes tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays and online tours are also available. For more information about NOAA, please visit www.weather.gov/aboutus.
Photo Caption: Members of the National Weather Service in Ruskin are geared up for the current hurricane season.