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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John E. Jones, Jr.
Deputy Director of the National Weather Service
August 1, 2003

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
It's great to be here answering your questions on "Ask the White House." Before the hurricane season, President Bush signed a proclamation announcing May 18 - 24th as National Hurricane Awareness Week to bring attention to the deadly effects of hurricanes that form in the oceans around our country. We've been busy again this year issuing tropical storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings, and we expect the rest of the season to be just as active. I'm happy to answer your questions.

Michael, from Waynesboro, PA writes:
In the past several hurricanes have hit the American coast especially near the gulf and the southern state georgia, florida, north carolina, south caroline. Has or is President Bush gave the suggestion of possibly giving extra money to this states Emercency Services for damage and help during the hurricane season? Since August is the best month for hurricanes to form

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
President Bush declares federal disaster areas whenever there is a need and provides federal funds through the Department of Homeland Security (the Federal Emergency Management Agency is now a part of DHS) to help communities recover. The President recently declared 16 counties federal disaster areas in south Texas following Hurricane Claudette.

After the landfall of a devastating hurricane, DHS coordinates the country's mitigation and response efforts to include grants and low-cost loans.

By the way, on average 28 percent of the season's activity occurs in August. However, September is the month of greatest activity with 36 percent. Looking at the history of hurricane activity, south Florida has received 69 direct hits from hurricanes (1899 - 1999) followed in order by Texas with 36, North Carolina with 28, Louisiana with 26, South Carolina with 15 and Georgia with 5.

Heather, from Hanover writes:
Why is it that the summers seem to get hotter and hotter? Is it because of the ozone is depleating? If the temperture continues to rise how long will humans be able to survive in the heat?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Heather, I'm not really a climate change expert, so I can't offer much insight here. I can tell you that under the President's leadership this week, more than 30 nations came together here in Washington, D.C. to establish an Earth observation system aimed at providing scientific data needed to understand our climate.

The observations made will provide scientists with better data, which are critical for improved models. These models should improve their ability to predict climate change.

A global observing system will also help all nations of the world predict weather emergencies (including hurricanes), decide when to plant crops, and to plan for energy needs, among other important issues.

Admiral Lautenbacher was the guest of Ask the White House on Wednesday, and he spoke in detail about the Earth Observation Summit. To read his transcript, click here.

leslie, from ohio writes:
have you ever been a weather man on tv? how are your efforts making our weather correspondents more accurate? my rule of thumb is to ALWAYS bring an umbrella

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
No, I have never worked for a TV station, but I have been interviewed many times. We work closely with our partners in the media to disseminate weather information, especially warnings. The media provides an important role in quickly relaying information that can help save lives.

I admire your ability to plan ahead, but you should have more faith in our forecasts!

ron, from Tacoma, Washington writes:
Sir: On the west coast I am informed our weather prediction is limited due to the lack of a good up to date weather radar that can see far out into the Pacific Ocean from which our weather is derived. Sir,would you please give the people in my part of the country some idea of when it might be possible for us to get a good weather radar on the Pacific Coast that is able to greatly improve our weather forecasting? Thankyou: Ron Morrison

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Over the last decade or so, the National Weather Service has undergone a complete modernization. As a result, we have significantly improved our weather forecasting and severe weather warnings. New Doppler radars, satellites, supercomputers and other advanced technology available to us today bring critical weather data to the forecasters in our office in Seattle. We have the lastest NEXRAD Doppler Radar serving the Seattle, Tacoma area.

Cindi, from Morrilton, Arkansas writes:
Do you believe we will see another hurrican like Andrew anytime in the near future? What conditions have to be present to produce a hurrican of this size?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Fortunately, a hurricane of Andrew's intensity is a rare event. As you may know, Andrew was a Category 5 hurricane and had sustained winds of 165 mph. There have been only 3 Category Five hurricanes to strike the United States in the last 68 years: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (Fla. Keys); Hurricane Camille (1969) and Andrew (1992). If you went back over the historical record, say back to 1871, it would seem a hurricane of Category 5 (winds of 155 mph+) would strike Miami on average about every 34 years. So you can never rule out the possibility, which is why is why it is so important for everyone living in coastal areas to be prepared, and pay attention to NOAA hurricane forecasts.

Kim, from Western Kentucky writes:
Hi John, I'm relieved that you are not talking about politics--this is a subject that I know a little about! : My son is fascinated by both tornados and hurricanes and has asked me a question that is in your area of expertise. Is it possible for the strength of wind in a hurricane to actually create a tornado once it reaches inland? I also wanted to wish the President a relaxing vacation with a tropical breeze or two that reaches Crawford or at least pleasant temperatures in the 80's!. Thank you!

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Yes, Kim, you can have tornadoes inside hurricanes. Both are powerful storms, but hurricanes are much larger and live a lot longer than tornadoes. Most tornadoes only last for a few minutes and are on the ground for a few miles. Hurricanes can live for weeks and move over hundreds of miles. Sorry, but we checked the forecast and there are no tropical winds blowing toward Crawford this weekend - just 100 degree Texas heat! Thanks for your kind thoughts for the President.

Mark, from Santa Fe writes:
Gosh! What is your prediction for the upcoming season? Will HOMELAND Security be helping to notify us of storms? How will New Orleans survive high tides and a hurricane?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Look for our update on August 7th, but as of today the forecast is 11-15 tropical storms, 6-9 hurricanes and 2-4 major hurricane wind speeds at least 111 mph. NOAA's National Weather Service has a responsibility for warning the public about tropical storms. We work with New Orleans as well as other communities along the coast to help them plan on different contingencies of how to react should certain-level hurricanes approach from different directions. Many cities like New Orleans have well thought out evacuation plans that are put into affect when certain conditions occur.

Joel, from Oregon writes:
What school would you suggest to go to if we wanted to get in the field that you are in.How prepared is the U.S. for a big weather disaster. Thanks.

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Hi, Joel -- There are several schools that have degree programs in meteorology. A professional organization like the American Meteorological Society can help you identify colleges in your area. I would like to see Americans better prepared for weather disasters. NOAA's National Weather Service spends a lot of time in local communities talking to the public about the weather and what to do if we issue a warning for their county. Many people respond positively to our information, but others never evacuate in the face of a storm even when ordered.

roy, from knoxville, tn writes:
Do you think animals, for example, dogs are more keen than humans in predicting weather patterns? Should we take notice when the weather is precarious and our dog starts barking?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
I'm not sure animals can keep up with our computers, radars and satellites in weather forecasting. A NOAA weather radio broadcasting hazard alerts is your best bet.

Cece, from Norman, OK writes:
How much advance tornado warning can the Weather Service give the public?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
In the last 15 years we've doubled the amount of warning we give the public for tornadoes. Today we provide an average of 11 minutes. There is a difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. A tornado watch means torandos are possible over the next 4 - 6 hours over a large geographic area. A warning is when a tornado is imminent or occuring. Warnings are in effect for an hour or less and usually for 1 or 2 counties.

Dionne, from Vienna, Virginia writes:
What is the difference between a hurricane, a cyclone and a typhoon?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
There is no difference between a hurricane and a typhoon. Tropical storms in the Atlantic are called hurricanes, and in the western Pacific are called typhoons. A cyclone can be any type of storm. Any type of low pressure area in a counter-clockwise flow can be called a cyclone.

Chad, from WKRG TV Mobile, Alabama writes:
Mr. Jones, So far this year our area of the Gulf Coast has been spared any major impact from landfalling tropical systems. The new advances made in forecasting tropical systems have led to more accurate five day forecasts. How does the weather service feel that the new forecasts are being accepted by the general public? Several years ago, our station along with local emergency managers, took part in project impact. The weather service now pushes the storm ready program. What are the major differences between the two programs and what is the weather service doing to better spread the message about disaster prone areas being storm ready? As we enter the heart of hurricane season more and more coastal residents are put in danger of being affected by a major tropical system at landfall. What needs to be done to better convince coastal dwellers that their safety is paramount no matter how many bad ones they have lived through? The National Weather Service continues to develop advancements in the prediction and forecasting of tropical systems. Intensity and track forecasts continue to be at the center of research and development. What plans are being developed now to better meteorologists in the fight to forecast these killer storms? Thanks for your time. J. Chad Watson Meteorologist WKRG TV News 5 Mobile, Alabama

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Hi, Chad -- The five-day forecasts feedback from the emergency managers has been positive.

We recognize the importance of continually educating the public, especially as coastal population is expected to grow by 25 million over the next 15 years. That is why we partner with organizations like FEMA and have developed projects like Storm Ready communities. Communities that are prepared to react to information from the National Weather Service and to take appropriate action. We have a Web site where people can find out more about becoming a Storm Ready community,

I can't tell you how much we value our partnerships with the media and the important role you play in providing life-saving information to the public. Thank you for your work.

Jack, from Newport News, VA writes:
I understand the NWS is developing more and more user friendly site and information invalueable to Emergency Managers, is there a plan or process that is being use to accomplish hugh task that is available online? What do your future plans for further development of NWS services online to the public and to local government include?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Hi, Jack -- NWS is always trying to improve the accuracy of our forecasts and the formats we use to share the information with the public. Emergency Managers are critical partners of NWS, we share a mission in providing information to the public to save lives. We do provide Emergency Managers a separate network to receive information from our forecast offices.

Laura, from Iowa writes:
Dear Mr. Jones, My question today is: How often does a tornado touch down in Washington, D.C.? What kind of precautions do you have to take to protect the President from a violent storm? I would really appreciate a reply. Thanks! Sincerely, Laura from Iowa

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
The President is strong advocate of NOAA Weather Radio. He has one at his ranch in Crawford. He has said on more than one occasion how accurate our forecasts are and he enjoys listening to the broadcasts.

Here's a web page if you want to learn more about NOAA weather radio,

There was just a tornado in the Washington, D.C. - metro area just last October. Tornadoes are not common in the area, but they are not unheard of.

There have been several tornadoes in metropolitan areas -- Fort Worth, Salt Lake City, Nashville to name a few.

Travis, from Hamburg, Pennsylvania writes:
I will be graduating from Penn State University in Spring '04 with a B.S. in meteorology. I was wondering what the job outlook will be for me as well as the rest of my graduating class. Also, besides NOAA and the military what other government agencies employ meteorologists?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
There are opportunities in the federal government, the private sector and the academic community. You can learn about jobs in the federal government at

You've picked a great field. Good luck!

Mubashir, from Tulsa, Oklahoma writes:
Do we have the technology to predict possible hurricanes months or weeks in advance by understanding the weather pattern?

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
We do issue a hurricane season outlook at the beginning of the season with an update in August. New this year, we have expanded our 3-day forecast to a 5-day forecast.

Deputy Director of the National Weather Service, John E. Jones, Jr.
Thanks to everyone for visiting with me! Weather is certainly a fascinating topic, and one that affects all of our lives. NOAA has many interesting things online, if you are interested in learning more visit us at For information about hurricanes, please visit us on the web at I hope to talk to you again some time soon.

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