Update: NOAA Irons Out Details of Sandy Service Assessment

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
December 13, 2012; 5:13 AM ET
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Almost a month after the proposed Sandy Service Assessment team was disbanded, NOAA has released information regarding the official commissioned team that will assess the performance of the NWS during Hurricane/Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy.

The team is slated to meet this month and begin its field work on Jan. 6, 2013.

The team will be multi-disciplinary, including two social scientists and 10 experts from across NOAA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Team members whom are employed by NOAA have been selected from around the country and were not involved in forecasting Sandy.

"This allows for an impartial and unbiased review," NOAA Deputy Under Secretary for Operations, David Titley wrote in a statement.

The team leader will be a scientist with NOAA's Marine Fisheries Service and will "oversee all field work, the development of findings and recommendations, and the drafting of the assessment report," the statements reads.

According to the statement by Titley, the newly commissioned assessment team will have three areas of focus: "the philosophies and policies behind the forecast and the weather watch and warning products and how they are communicated; how storm surge products are produced and issued from multiple NOAA line offices; and the web presence as a tool for communicating with the public."

The team will conclude the assessment with a report identifying facts, findings, and best practices and will make recommendations for process changes and service improvements that can be made within six months.

After Sandy battered the East Coast in late October, the National Weather Service has come under harsh criticism for proposing, then disbanding an assessment team, stating that the charter for the proposed team was never signed and approved. The team was to include the first non-governmental co-chair, Mike Smith, Senior Vice President of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions.

Smith who originally called for an independent investigation of the NWS, believes it is necessary to include non-governmental team members.

"All will have the perspective of government employees. There is nothing wrong with that provided it is complemented by "outside the box" thinking that non-government employees can provide," Smith wrote on 'Mike Smith Enterprises Blog', regarding the newly commissioned team. "This especially true since many of the members of the team depend on NOAA for a paycheck."

Others are less critical of the decision.

Brian McNoldy, Senior Research Associate for the University of Miami, believes that NOAA is capable of producing an unbiased assessment.

"An assessment within NOAA would be quite adequate, as they have done excellent jobs on past storm assessments, and are not hesitant to be self-critical. I don't really think that the commercial and research sectors would really add substance to the assessment that wouldn't already be put in by NOAA," he said. "However, having outside groups participate will almost certainly leave fewer doors open for criticism from those other sectors."

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