Thank You NOAA

January 24, 2013

On the afternoon of Friday October 19, 2012, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) began to pay attention to a seemingly obscure thunderstorm in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.  From this inauspicious beginning, NOAA scientists began tracking and reporting on Superstorm Sandy. 


By continually monitoring the conditions of the storm and an extensive area of atmosphere and ocean; and, using sophisticated models developed over many decades to predict future conditions, NOAA scientists did something truly remarkable on October 26, while Sandy was over the Bahamas. The scientists predicted that the storm would gather strength, move northeast and then, abruptly, veer west and slam into New Jersey with major impact on the twenty-two million people living in the metropolitan area of New York. 


Demonstrating faith in its science and scientists, NOAA immediately alerted the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local governments in the impacted area. Over the next four days, supplied with regular updates from NOAA's scientists, and help from NOAA staff deployed to operation centers, communities prepared for the storm which arrived just as predicted.


Tragically, more than a hundred lives were lost. Yet, many more lives were saved. How many?  Thousands? Tens of thousands? Even more?  It is not possible to know the death toll avoided but for NOAA's early and accurate warnings.  Given the population and vulnerabilities of the impacted area, I suspect that Sandy would quite likely have been the worst natural disaster in the history of the Nation, had the critical four days of preparation not occurred.  


Today, many of us go about our daily lives, perhaps still cleaning up after the storm, but alive and with our loved ones, blissfully unaware that the fate that we were spared, thanks to NOAA scientists.  


We rightly recognize the firefighters, paramedics, police and other "first responders" who come to our aid at such times. They are indeed heroes within our communities. For Sandy, the scientists of NOAA were our first responders, our scientific heroes. 


Superstorm Sandy is, of course, just a very visible demonstration of what NOAA does for every hurricane, for every storm, and for every sudden freeze that might send our child's school bus sliding off the road. 


As a scientist, I could talk at length about the phenomenal science that is done every day by the NOAA scientists (often with the help of others at federal acronyms like  NASA, NSF, DOE, CDC, EPA, USDA, USFS, USGS and so on.)


But today, I would like to say just two words as an American citizen and, if I may, on behalf of the American people, to the scientists of NOAA. . .  


Thank You.


Peter Saundry


Executive Director

National Council for Science and the Environment

1101 17th Street NW

Suite 250

Washington, DC 20036