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NOAA storm surge scientist awarded Service to America medal

October 16, 2019
Waves on top of a hurricane's storm surge can worsen the destructive power of the ocean. NOAA's Jamie Rhome was instrumental in leading the development of storm-surge forecast products implemented in recent years to inform the public and vital constituencies about the risk of storm surge.

Jamie R. Rhome with NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has been awarded the prestigious Service to America medal for his pioneering work in forecasting and warning the public about the deadly and destructive inundation of water associated with a hurricane’s storm surge

Presented by the Partnership for Public Service, the Service to America medaloffsite link (or SAMMIE) “highlights excellence in our federal workforce and inspires other talented and dedicated individuals to go into public service” and honors recipients for “breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results.”

“I’m honored by this recognition and to be among many great public servants whose work benefits the American public every day,” said Rhome. “I am committed to protecting coastal residents from the deadly power of storm surge and I am fortunate to be in a position to make a difference.”

Jamie R. Rhome with NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has been awarded the prestigious 2019 Service to America medal for his pioneering work in forecasting and warning the public about the deadly and destructive inundation of water associated with a hurricane’s storm surge. Here Jamie is shown giving a television interview about Hurricane Irma, September 7, 2017.
Jamie R. Rhome with NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has been awarded the prestigious 2019 Service to America medal for his pioneering work in forecasting and warning the public about the deadly and destructive inundation of water associated with a hurricane’s storm surge. Here, Jamie is shown giving a television interview about Hurricane Irma, September 7, 2017. (NOAA)

Under Rhome’s leadership, two core storm surge products were implemented in recent years to inform the public and vital constituencies, including emergency management officials, in an effort to protect lives and ensure the most effective evacuation of coastal areas. The first, launched in 2016, is the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map, a graphical display of the possible inundation of water height above ground. The second was in 2017 with the operational launch of the storm surge watches and warnings for the U.S. coast. These products are developed and issued operationally through close collaboration between the National Hurricane Center and local National Weather Service offices.

“Jamie’s scientific expertise and visionary leadership underpins the effective storm surge forecasts and warnings for our nation’s coastline,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. “His work is literally life-saving.”

Rhome oversees the National Hurricane Center’s Storm Surge Unit, which produces official storm surge forecasts during tropical cyclone threats to the United States, supports the Nation’s hurricane warning program, and facilitates post-storm response and recovery efforts. 

Outside the hurricane season, Rhome leads the storm surge research and development activities at the National Hurricane Center, including collaborating with partners in NOAA’s research and ocean services to improve storm surge modeling, and receiving feedback from decision makers at federal, state and local agencies to improve the products usefulness to save lives and efficiently keep people out of harm’s way. He also participates in the Center’s outreach program by assisting in hurricane preparedness activities, addressing government, industrial, and private groups, and partaking in numerous media interviews.

In addition, Rhome serves as a subject matter expert on a team within the World Meteorological Organization aimed at improving storm surge predictive capabilities within other nations, especially in the Caribbean and Central America.

Rhome received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in meteorology from North Carolina State University. He joined the National Hurricane Center in 1999 as a marine forecaster in the Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch and became a hurricane specialist in 2006 before becoming the lead of the storm surge program in 2008.

The award being presented to Rhome today joins his other accolades including the 2016 National Weather Service Isaac Cline award and the 2017 Department of Commerce Gold Medal, its highest honorary award. 

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