A veteran weather forecaster was named the new director of the National Hurricane Center, filling the void left when his predecessor was removed after his comments about a satellite angered staffers.
Bill Read, the center’s interim deputy director since August, said he will deal with problems behind the scenes and work to boost morale.
He indicated he would take a different approach than his predecessor, Bill Proenza, whom he’s known for two decades. The new director said Proenza is passionate about his work, but added, “We have very different personalities.”
Proenza replaced Max Mayfield in January 2007. Mayfield, who retired after seven years as director, was popular among forecasters and the public for his calming persona.
Proenza repeatedly called for replacing QuikScat, an aging weather satellite, and said storm forecasts would suffer if it failed. He was placed on leave in July, after nearly half his staff complained that he had undermined public confidence in center forecasts.
A Commerce Department team determined that Proenza should not be allowed to return, citing a negative atmosphere and lack of trust between Proenza and his staff. He was reassigned to his old job, director of the National Weather Service’s southern region.
Read expressed less urgency about the satellite Friday, though he said higher-ups have acknowledged the satellite needs to be addressed and that plans were being made.
“You won’t find a meteorologist out there who doesn’t want more data, myself included,” he said. “I think as far as the QuikScat goes, the people in the satellite business not just NOAA but also in NASA are working now on developing exactly what it is we need and what we want.”
Read, 58, said he had much work to do on hurricane preparedness and public apathy toward storm warnings. He also acknowledged meteorologists had not yet “cracked the code” on forecasting storms’ rapid intensification or weakening. He said he would work fast to improve morale and teamwork.
The hurricane center in Miami monitors the movement and strength of tropical weather systems, and issues storm watches and warnings for the U.S. and surrounding areas. The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay contributed to this report.
On the Net: National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov
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