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Dr. Robert Simpson, NHC Director from 1968 to 1973, is honored by Dr. William Gray of the Tropical Meteorology Product
Dr. William Gray of the Tropical Meteorology Project honors Dr. Robert Simpson, NHC Director (1968–1973) on occasion of his 100th birthday, at the National Tropical Weather Conference. Click for a larger photo.
Tropical Weather Conference Held on South Padre Island
First Annual Event Draws Hurricane Experts and Core Partners to the Valley

On April 18th and 19th, 2013, the Urban Science Initiative of San Antonio, Texas, held the First Annual National Tropical Weather Conference at the Isla Grand Beach Resort on South Padre Island. The Conference featured a "Who’s Who" of tropical meteorologists, including current National Hurricane Center (NHC) Director Dr. Rick Knabb and former Directors Bill Read (2008–2012), Max Mayfield (2000–2007), Dr. Neil Frank (1973–1987), and Dr. Robert Simpson (1968–1973), who recently turned 100 years old! Presenters, panelists, and attendees included Dr. William Gray from the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, staff from NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley and Corpus Christi, broadcast meteorologists from the Texas Gulf Coast through New England, Rio Grande Valley Emergency Management personnel, preparedness partners from the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and the National Flood Improvement Program, and Enterprise partners from The Weather Channel, AccuWeather, and WSI.

NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith giving the daily weather briefing to open the April 18th session
NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Warning Coordination Meteorologist Barry Goldsmith gives the morning weather briefing to open the 2013 National Tropical Weather Conference. Click for a larger photo.

Day One of the conference featured a review of the 2012 Hurricane Season and upcoming changes in the National Hurricane Program for the 2013 Season by NHC Director Knabb and Dr. Gray’s preview of the 2013 season forecast by the Tropical Meteorology Project. Dr. Simpson, who videoconferenced via SkypeTM, recounted witnessing harrowing rescues during the 1919 Corpus Christi Hurricane as a young child. The focus of the day was Hurricane Sandy, including a panel discussion on the unique and unprecedented meteorology surrounding Sandy’s huge girth and wide ranging impacts, and a second discussion on the challenges that confronted the Weather Enterprise communicating local, regional, and national impacts from Sandy. The highlight of the Sandy discussion came from Dr. Nick Coch of Queens College (NY), who minced few words imploring society to retreat from new development in harm’s way from storm surge flooding.

National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb speaks to the audience on new hurricane forecast product enhancements
NHC Director Dr. Rick Knabb discusses forecast enhancements for the 2013 hurricane season. Click for a larger photo.

Day Two began with a history of Texas Hurricanes, presented by forecaster Roger Gäss of NWS Corpus Christi, followed by a review of current and future efforts to improve collaboration among local NWS offices and the media by Barry Goldsmith of NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley. NHC Storm Surge specialist Jamie Rhome, Director Knabb, and former Director Read led a short course on forecasting tropical cyclones and impacts, highlighted by Rhome’s innovative discussion on comprehensive storm surge inundation forecasts and warnings. The afternoon featured a heartwarming luncheon tribute to centegenarian Dr. Simpson by the former NHC directors and Dr. Gray; examples of public education successes by Leslie Chapman–Henderson of FLASH, and an account by storm chaser and building assessor extraordinaire Tim Marshall of his close up encounter with Hurricane Ike. The conference ended with an uplifting educational experience with students from Dr. Rodriguez Elementary of Harlingen, Texas; Alex Garcia of the Urban Science Initiative showed the audience how to get students hooked on atmospheric science through interactive experiments.

The full agenda for the conference can be found here.

A Conference on the beach would not be complete without fun activities for participants and their families. Indoor meetings were bookended by a Welcome Reception, South Padre style, featuring a steel drum band and the Texas state champion Edinburg High Mariachis. The day after the conference (Saturday) featured outdoor activities for all stripes, from boat and fishing tours to dolphin watching and water park fun. A farewell party Saturday evening included a grand buffet, special awards, and a pristine sunset over Laguna Madre Bay.

"The event organizers, in particular Alex Garcia and Tim Smith (KRGV–TV Channel 5), went above and beyond to put a smile on the faces of all participants," said Goldsmith. "NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley is privileged to be a part of this great premiere conference at the Rio Grande Valley’s beautiful resort beach, and we look forward to participating in future conferences and helping make them bigger and better!"

Storm Surge Specialist Jamie Rhome Describes fine scaled storm surge inundation maps for New York City Former NHC Directors pose with Nick Coch of Queens College, NYC, at the end of the National Tropical Weather Conference NHC Directors past and present discuss how the hurricane program has evolved at rapid speed over the decades
Left: NHC Storm Surge Specialist Jamie Rhome describes future fine–gridded inundation maps for Manhattan and nearby boroughs of New York. Center: From left, legends of hurricane prediction and assessment Neil Frank, Bill Read, Nick Coch, Max Mayfield, and Bill Gray pose for a photo at the end of Day 2 of the Conference. Right: From left, former NHC Directors Bill Read and Dr. Neil Frank listen to current Director Dr. Rick Knabb speak. Former Director Max Mayfield looks on to the right of Dr. Knabb.