National Weather Servicehe will retire at the end of the year
Louis Uccellini has watched dangerous storms brew and survived one notable political one and many meteorological ones. Now, after eight yearsWeather Service, he’s retiring.
Uccellini announced Tuesday he is stepping down at the end of the year after 43 years of researching, forecasting and coping with weather that has become ever morechange and a political storm that erupted after the White House changed a hurricane forecast map.
Uccellini started asking about theand the snow on the ground soon after he learned to talk, inspired by 1960’s Hurricane Donna that blew over his Long Island home, followed by three blizzards. It turned him into a weather geek. He went on to help create a rating system for winter storms and wrote more than 70 scientific studies and books.
Uccellini, 72, spoke to The Associated Press about his tenure — including a clash with theover a Hurricane Dorian forecast, his love of storms, and efforts to lessen the impact of extreme weather. The conversation, which occurred as has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: Theover the years, but those gains often get counteracted by the weather getting more extreme because of climate change. Does it get frustrating?
A: We’re not frustrated by that; it’s part of whatevery day. We want to do better. We want to be able to . And it’s not just the floods. It’s not just hurricanes. It’s not just . Look at the . We used to have . We now have a fire weather year.
What I can do and what the weatherwith the natural events as we’re forecasting them, as we’re learning more about them, and to communicate to the folks who must mitigate the impacts.
We have a societal issue regarding whether the infrastructure can keep up with a rainfall rate of three inches an hour in New York City, the (nearly) 20 inches of, Tennessee. Is the infrastructure ready for the magnitudes of these storms? It doesn’t appear to be that way.
Q: During Hurricane Dorian, then-President Donald Trump mistakenly said it was threatening Alabama when it was headed to the. Someone in the Dorian’s forecast track to match the president. Weather service meteorologists in Alabama contradicted the president and were reprimanded. What was like for you?
A: I immediately realized that this would probably be the most significant leadership — not management, leadership — a challenge I had ever faced and would likely ever meet.
Ten minutes before (the public reprimand) was released, I was given a courtesy call. And I just said, “This ain’t going to go down well.” So we had to track (the Alabama office chief meteorologist) down through his cell to assure him that I had his back.
Q: That was on a Friday night. By coincidence, you were scheduled to speak Monday morning at a weather convention in Alabama. And youthe Alabama meteorologists, saying they did the right thing, contradicting the White House. Were you worried?
A: I was prepared to be fired for challenging the. I didn’t use the word , and I didn’t use the word president.
Q: How did you get interested in the weather?
A: I realized that this is what I was going to do for the rest of my life in 1960. Hurricane Donna was right over our house. And then, in December of 1960, we had a massive snowstorm that excited us.
And then we had the 1961 January storm. ItLong Island with another 15, 16 inches of snow. And then we got the February 2 to 4th storm that dumped two feet. And get this; the snowplow broke down on the end of the street.
Q: What weather app is on your phone?
A: I don’t have any. I use the weather service and other input, but I can tell you, my wife has weather apps on her phone, and she’ll show me some stuff, and I’ll say, “That’s fine.”
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.