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This hurricane season has been a pain for some federal agencies with facilities in Florida and along the Gulf Coast — and the stiffest test yet for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Web site.

As Hurricane Ivan approached this week, officials at the Agriculture Department's National Finance Center, which houses the books for government employees' Thrift Savings Plan in New Orleans, mailed their backup databases to safe locations. But they could not save their Web site from a preventive shutdown.

"We expect to be back up no later than Monday," said Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs for the Thrift Investment Board, whose 3.3 million participants should be able to access their accounts by Sept. 20.

In anticipation of more meteorological terror, Homeland Security Department officials are following Hurricane Ivan closely. Officials at DHS' Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection directorate are assessing the vulnerabilities and potential impact to critical infrastructure located in the storm's projected path. Based upon these assessments, DHS officials will work with private-sector partners and state and local government officials during the recovery phase.

Aircraft from DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement will help transport Federal Emergency Management Agency officials to and from sites. They will also fly over the storm's path following landfall to collect high-resolution images for damage assessment. The data will allow FEMA officials to better target areas in need of immediate help.

Also collecting up-to-the-minute, high-resolution images, NOAA's Web site has received a record number of hits during this hurricane season. In the first eight days of September, the site received 200 million hits — equivalent to one-third of the total traffic for all of 2003, when the United States was hit by one hurricane, Isabel.

"The hurricanes have put our stats off the charts this year," said Greg Hernandez, NOAA's online editor. "We've been so busy trying to stay on the air."

Hurricane season lasts six months, from June 1 to Nov. 30.

To free bandwidth after a Sept. 9 hurricane warning, NOAA officials took down their weather Web logs, which occupied more than 10G of information. The agency's information technology staff now performs the task manually.

"These ladies and gentlemen have been 24/7," Hernandez said. "It's nice to know I wasn't alone at two in the morning."

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