NSF PR PR 00-11 - March 22, 2000
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Stage Set for National Symposium on May 1999 Great
Some of the most intense tornadoes on record ripped
through parts of the southern Great Plains on May
3, 1999, devastating metropolitan areas and nearly
destroying entire communities. Despite the ferocity
of these storms, the number of deaths was remarkably
low, due in large part to advanced storm detection
and warning technology, effective information dissemination
and rapid response by public safety and emergency
Nearly one year later, a first-of-its-kind national
symposium on these Great Plains storms is being held
in Oklahoma City, Okla., funded in part by the National
Science Foundation (NSF). The meeting will run from
Apr. 30 through May 3. In this "National Symposium
on the Great Plains Tornado Outbreak of May 3, 1999,"
meteorologists, public safety officials, wind engineers,
medical and emergency personnel, disaster relief workers,
social scientists, media, the insurance industry and
shelter construction companies will converge in an
effort to understand all facets of these powerful
Says Steve Nelson, program director in NSF's atmospheric
sciences division, "Prior research helped immensely
in lessening the impact of this tornado outbreak.
Now we need to set our sights on even better forecasting."
The symposium will begin with a "safe room" exposition
on Sunday, April 30. The exposition will be a free
event open to the general public. Several private
companies will be on hand to conduct demonstrations
of safe room and underground shelter technology and
to answer questions. Storm chase videos and vehicles
also will be on display.
Over the following three days, experts will make presentations
on a variety of topics, ranging from forecasting and
observation technology to damage assessment and emergency
response. Among those speaking are Oklahoma Governor
Frank Keating, who will honor those Oklahomans who
died last May in the storm, and those whose lives
were irreversibly changed by the tornadoes.
"Few of us will ever forget that devastating day last
May," says Kelvin Droegemeier, meteorologist at the
University of Oklahoma, and symposium chair. "But
now we have an opportunity to learn from that event
in order to be better prepared for the future."
Presentations and panel discussions during the three-day
symposium will highlight the wide array of issues
involved in a disaster of this magnitude, including
Oklahoma Gas & Electric's response to the tornadoes,
wind damage assessment, getting the message to the
public, shelter technology and wind engineering, damage
surveys, performance of the forecast, warning and
For more information, visit http://parker.gen.ou.edu/~kkd/may3.htm.