National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Bekki Harjo

Location: Tulsa, OK
Arkansas-Red Basin River Forecast Center (ABRFC)
Job Title: Service Coordination Hydrologist

Educational Background:

  • Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Oklahoma State University
  • Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering from Oklahoma State University
  • Doctorate in Law from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law (now Texas A&M School of Law)
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Biosystems Engineering from Oklahoma State University
  • Licensed Professional Engineer in Oklahoma (and inactive in Texas)
  • Certified Floodplain Manager
  • Attorney (member of Oklahoma Bar Association)
  • Licensed Cosmetologist

Describe the career path that led you to your current job with the National Weather Service.

  • I began my career designing and drafting potable and recycled water, sanitary sewer, and storm drain projects at a civil engineering consulting firm.  My next job was overseeing residential development for a municipality.  Later, I taught at a community college and also had short-term contracts as research assistant.  Next, I was a reservoir controller in the Tulsa District Corps of Engineers Hydrology & Hydraulics Branch, before starting with the NWS.  My career path has been anything but linear!

What do you do for the NWS?

  • Our office provides daily and flood forecasts at specified hydrologic points, flash flood guidance, high-quality precipitation data, and other products. ABRFC is the gold standard in RFC quantitative precipitation estimation (QPE) data!  Staffing at ABRFC is unique because we are all cross-trained to work both river forecasting and hydrometeorological analysis shifts.  Our service area has all types of topography and weather patterns.  I enjoy outreach and working with the Weather Forecast Offices (WFOs) and other partners.

What was the most interesting, exciting, or impactful weather/water event you experienced while working for the NWS and why does it stand out?

  • The summer of 2015 was the most eventful time I experienced in the NWS to date.  A sequence of storm systems came through the ABRFC area that put the majority of the rivers above flood stage.  We had flood forecasts issued in every major drainage basin in our entire area at some point.  What made the biggest impression on me was the way the entire office worked together to handle the event.  It was a textbook example of teamwork!

What made you decide to pursue a career with the NWS?

  • I love working in operational water resources, especially reservoirs and rivers. Joining the NWS allowed me to continue to work in this area while making a difference for others in the field by trying to continually improve river forecasts.

What do you like most about working for the NWS?

  • I enjoy working with the people!  I have the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people on behalf of the NWS.  Working for the NWS also gives me a chance to provide input to cutting edge advances in hydrologic modeling.

What advice do you have for someone interested in a career with the NWS?

  • Never stop learning!  Whether you start your career with the NWS as a young person or if you start as a more seasoned professional, keep learning.  Keep abreast of upcoming technological and scientific changes in your field so you can remain resilient throughout your career.

What training or coursework would you recommend to someone interested in following your career path?

  • Follow your interests and take whatever courses interest you, even if you think they don’t directly apply to your degree or career path right now.  You never know what your future may hold.  And take more math classes!