The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Weather service cuts coming Monday

Valdez office will have one employee and rely on volunteer observers


Changes in the Valdez office of the National Weather that were announced early 2013 are coming next week.

Beginning Monday, the organization's Valdez office will shrink to one employee according to Dwight Tribble, the visiting weather official staffing the office this week.

"It'll only be open Monday through Friday," Tribble said. "It's going to be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m."

Wendy Zwickle will be the sole on-site employee.

"She'll be the person staffing this," Tribble said."

The weather readings, such as snow depth, temperature readings and other important functions formerly performed onsite by people will be automated he said.

"Basically it will be on the computer," he said.

Last week, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the weather service, sent a fax to local media announcing a change to what it calls the "routine climate products for Valdez."

The weather service said the final publication of the old model will be March 15.

"Daily temperature, precipitation, and snowfall information will continue to be collected for Valdez," the weather service fax said. "although (sic) the information will be disseminated in different products."

The fax also said "More information on how to obtain this climatological data will be provided in a separate notification message before March 16, 2014."

Tribble said the information will still be available online, but did not elaborate on what the change in format will look like.

"None of that is going to change," he said of the information currently available on the NOAA website that features information generated by the Valdez weather service office.

Mike Couch, the regional traveling weather official in Anchorage, said new links on the NOAA website will be available for climate data from Valdez after Monday's change.

"We definitely want to keep the climate record going," he said.

Couch said a volunteer observer who can accommodate the instrumentation needed to continue offering accurate weather observations in Valdez is in the process of becoming a volunteer weather observer and hopefully will be able to begin reporting climate data before by Monday.

Couch said the weather in Valdez is not cooperating and is hindering in the installation of needed instrumentation.

The Valdez volunteer observer will join a network of volunteer weather observers across the nation that numbers 10,000 which includes about 100 of which observe and report weather in Alaska.

Couch said climate data collection by volunteers is the nationwide norm.

"It's usually someone doing it in their backyard," he said.

Valdez Star photo

Dwight Tribble, visiting weather official, physically checking the Valdez snow depth, temperature and new snowfall Monday afternoon.

A flyer distributed around Valdez by the weather service said the program has its roots all the way back to 1797, when "Thomas Jefferson envisioned a network of weather observers across the nation."

"At the peak, the weather service had 12,000 observers" nationwide Couch said.

Much of that data now collected digitally.

news of the changes, which were announced over a year ago, alarmed officials in Valdez, worried the business community and vexed the community at large.

The Valdez City Council at the time passed a resolution demanding NOAA not only rescind the cuts to the Valdez office, but return it to a full-time 24 hour station, fully staffed by a human being at all times.


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