Storm expert to lead National Weather Service

Louis W. Uccellini cowrote a widely cited book on winter storms.
Louis W. Uccellini cowrote a widely cited book on winter storms. (NOAA)
Posted: February 08, 2013

After weathering more than its share of budget storms, the National Weather Service is turning to one of the nation's premier storm experts to become its new leader.

Louis W. Uccellini will become the weather service's director, effective Sunday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, its parent agency, announced Thursday.

The appointment was welcomed by members of the forecasters' union, the National Weather Service Employees Organization, who have had a sometimes fractious relationship with the bosses.

"I think everybody is pretty excited," said union president Dan Sobien.

"The first priority is clearly to listen," Uccellini said in a phone interview. "There's a lot I know about the weather service, and a lot I don't know."

According to union general counsel Richard Hirn, the weather service "has been secretly, and dramatically, reducing staffing to dangerous levels." He said that between Sept. 1, 2010, and last month, the nonmanagement workforce lost 193 of 3,877 positions.

"We need to ensure that our budget process is more transparent," Uccellini said. "That's the first order of things."

"We've worked with Louis for a long time," said Sobien, "and while we don't always agree, we have a good relationship with him."

Uccellini, 63, a Long Island native, has had a long career with the weather service. After getting his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin and doing a stint at NASA, Uccellini joined the agency in 1989.

In 1999, he became the head of the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, in charge of such offices as the Storm Prediction and the National Hurricane Centers.

He replaces acting director Laura K. Furgione, who stays on as deputy. She had replaced director Jack Hayes, who abruptly retired in May.

Even in the private sector, Uccellini is respected as an expert in winter storms, and is coauthor of a widely cited reference work, Northeast Snowstorms.

In the weather community, the big ones, such as the one due this weekend, are often called KU storms, for Uccellini and his coauthor, meteorologist Paul Kocin.


Contact Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.

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