Gulf Coast Meteorologist to Lead National Hurricane Center

By JENNIFER KAY | March 26, 2018

A meteorologist who aided emergency response efforts along the Gulf Coast after the 2010 oil spill has been tapped to lead the U.S. government’s hurricane forecasting hub in Miami.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that Kenneth Graham will be the next director of the National Hurricane Center.

Graham will start his new post April 1.

He has been the meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service’s New Orleans-Baton Rouge office since 2008. After the Deepwater Horizon disaster fouled the Gulf of Mexico, Graham supervised the forecasts authorities used to make decisions for their emergency response operations.

“We ended up issuing some 4,300 spot forecasts that helped authorities make the go, no-go decisions for every boat and flight operation,” Graham said in a 2011 article by The Washington Post and the Partnership for Public Service. “There were some 30,000 people responding to the disaster on boats, on the beaches and in aircraft that could be in danger, and their safety was paramount.”

Before taking that position, Graham led Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts at the weather service’s regional headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. He also led forecasters at the weather service headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, and in forecast offices in Birmingham, Alabama, and Corpus Christi, Texas.

“His reputation among his colleagues and across the weather, water, and climate enterprise is unparalleled, which will ensure his continued success in this critical position,” said Louis W. Uccellini, director of the weather service.

Graham succeeds Rick Knabb, who led the hurricane center for five years before returning to The Weather Channel before the 2017 storm season. The center’s deputy director, Ed Rappaport, has led operations in the interim.

The announcement follows Congress’ release late Wednesday of a $1.3 trillion spending package that includes $122 million for NOAA to purchase backup aircraft for its aging fleet of “hurricane hunter” jets. The planes fly in and around storms to collect essential data used in track and intensity forecasts.

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