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Hurricane center gets new director
Bill Read takes over months after a previous director's views nearly led to a staff revolt.
By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer
Published January 26, 2008
Bill Read, 58, with 30 years of experience as a forecaster, will take control of the National Hurricane Center.
Veteran forecaster Bill Read will take control of the National Hurricane Center, half a year after a near staff revolt led officials to oust a previous director.
"Awesome opportunity," Read said in an interview Friday. "I'm quite excited about the opportunity to take the reins."
Read, 58, led the National Weather Service's Houston-Galveston office before joining the Miami-based center in August as interim deputy director. A Navy veteran with a master's degree in meteorology from Texas A&M University, Read has 30 years of experience as a forecaster.
He steps in at a critical time for the agency, which provides the detailed weather reports warning Floridians and others about incoming tropical storms.
Read's predecessor, Bill Proenza, spoke bluntly last year about outdated equipment he said was crippling the center's ability to accurately evaluate storms.
But instead of rallying the troops, his comments caused a backlash among his colleagues at the hurricane center, who said he was overstating the case. He was replaced in July, after just six months in the job.
Read said Friday that the hurricane center's combination of top experts, aircraft reconnaissance data and support from university experts makes it a top-notch institution. "There's nothing to compare it to in the world," he said.
"Do I want more and better? Of course, you'll never find a forecaster, including me, that says we don't want better."
He said he would most like to "crack the code" to explain why some hurricanes suddenly intensify and become much more dangerous.
The center also is working to develop even better graphic displays of hurricane activity to post on its Web site, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov, he said.
Tom Iovino, spokesman for Pinellas County, said it was good to hear that the center has a permanent director again who can guide the staff long term. Previous directors such as Max Mayfield "really had an opportunity to get their hands in and really develop systems ... into a dynamite service."