Firewall causes storm of trouble for NWS

A firewall apparently knocked offline a college Web site that had been supplying data to Los Angeles forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Los Angeles/Oxnard Office, according to officials in charge of the site.

William Russell, director of the automated weather station at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., said the station’s electronic instruments normally transmit data to the college weather station’s Web site. Local NWS meteorologists retrieve the information for their forecasts.

But the Web site went dark in the early morning of Oct. 2, around the same time the college activated a new computer security firewall.

“The automated instruments are collecting data right now, but the problem is the computer cannot send the information to the campus server to be displayed on the Web page. And that’s how the NWS gets the data,” said Russell, who is also a meteorology and geography professor.

Last summer, the Web page attracted major attention when the station documented record-breaking 119.2-degree heat on July 22.

NWS meteorologists were able to update their forecasts using the site’s latest data.

“Since that Web site is now down, that is one less observation that the forecaster has in his arsenal of data to prepare a forecast,” said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for NWS headquarters.

Now the weather station uses the phone, once a day, to relay highs, lows and rain data to the NWS meteorologists, he said.

After the outage, the college installed a new computer in hopes of repairing the connection but had no success. Technicians are still “figuring out how to make the computer talk to the server,” Russell said.

The weather station’s automated instruments include a rain gauge, thermometer and tools for measuring solar radiation, atmospheric pressure, humidity and wind.

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