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National Weather Service Keeps Eye on Storm

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National Weather Service, Newport, N.C.
RALEIGH — The National Weather Service office in Newportis less than 10 miles from the North Carolina coast. Year round, thebuilding is home to more than a dozen meteorologists and, when a storm hits, the office canbecomehome others who needs shelter.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Don Bartholf says people do take shelter there at times. People who live in mobilehomes don't want to be there in a storm, he says, so he invites themto take shelter in the building's hallways.

Even in the most severe weather, everyone needs to know what'sgoing on, so this building was built to withstand just about anything.

Bartholf has been a weather wizard for 25 years. A few yearsago he moved from Syracuse, N.Y., to Newport where he traded blizzardwarnings for hurricane warnings. His modern-day "war" room now has allthe latest tools, but that wasn't always the case.

Back in the 70s it took a long time to get timely warnings out to the public, but Bartholf says new weather toys like Doppler Radar andadvanced computer software have made warnings almost instantly available.

Once a warning has been issued, the team players in Newport shift intohigh gear.

Last year's active Atlantic hurricane season caught many by surprise, but not these guys. Bartholf says they all knew we were long overdue for astorm like Fran -- or even worse.

He says the luck we've had for the last few decades is not normal,which means it could get worse before it gets better. According to theNational Weather Service, says Bartholf, we may just be approaching amore normal period of hurricane activity.

If normal activity means a dozen named tropical storms and a half-dozenAtlantic hurricanes, the National Weather Service is ready.The hurricane hotline is wired, the computers are loaded and theDoppler radar is constantly monitoring the coastline.

What is difficult to keep in mind is that Bertha and Fran wereconsidered medium-strength hurricanes. Bertha was a Categorytwo, Fran a three when they hit our state.

Bartholf says we're probably due for a Category four in thisarea. Categories three, four and five are considered major hurricanes. Oneand two are lighter.

What will happen this season, says Bartholf, is anybody's guess.

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