by Bryan Painter Modified: May 1, 2009 at 5:22 pm •  Published: April 26, 2009
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photo - Scott Curl, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office, recently talked about technology regarding the May 3, 1999,  tornadoes. Photo by bryan painter, the oklahoman
Scott Curl, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office, recently talked about technology regarding the May 3, 1999, tornadoes. Photo by bryan painter, the oklahoman
NORMAN — Recently, I sat down with David Andra, Scott Curl and Chris Sohl, three meteorologists at the National Weather Service’s Norman forecast office who were among those working during the tornado outbreak May 3, 1999.

I asked them what were the differences in technology from when you started at the weather service until May 3, 1999? What helped you do your job that day?

A new system
Andra, the science and operations officer, marks 22 years at the weather service next month.

"There were two critical pieces of technology developed between when I started and May 3, 1999,” he said.

One was the Doppler radar, installed across the nation by the National Weather Service in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Second, the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, which processes virtually all information they use in making forecasting and warning decisions.

The really interesting part is that this system was introduced into

the Norman office in

late 1997, so they were still "working out

the bugs.”

One of those "bugs” was a problem of keeping radar information fresh, Andra said.

It wasn’t updating as quick as it should have.

"So we did a lot of work with developers in the days leading up to May 3 to fix those things not knowing what was just ahead,” Andra said.

"Everything worked very well that day. Everything worked as it should.”

Not only quality but quantity was an issue.

Gained on a DARE
Andra said that before the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System, or AWIPS, the Norman office had one workstation.

That would have made things difficult on May 3, 1999, with dozens of tornadoes. Instead, there were six stations, and four were dedicated to warnings.

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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IF YOU GO
Anniversary event

When: 8 a.m. to

5 p.m. Friday

Where: National Weather Center, Norman

About the event
An event will

commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the May 3-4, 1999, tornado outbreak.

There will be sessions focusing on:


• Science and

technology


• Emergency

preparedness

and recovery


• Community and societal impacts


• Individual impacts: The people speak

registration
Attendance is free, but registration is required by Wednesday. A box lunch may be purchased for $10. Online

registration and the conference agenda are available at www.srh.noaa.gov/oun/wxevents/19990503/anniversary.php.

Information
Call 325-3816.

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