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NWS Moving Garrett Forecasting From Pittsburgh to Baltimore/Washington

November 9th, 2020 by WCBC Radio

Two Maryland counties will have their weather forecasts and alerts handled by a different National Weather Service (NWS) office beginning tomorrow (Nov. 10) in a move that will streamline forecasting and alerts west of the Chesapeake Bay and along the I-95 corridor in the state.

Cecil County will move from the NWS Philadelphia Weather Forecast Office in Mount Holly, NJ, and Garrett County will move from the NWS Pittsburgh Weather Forecast Office, to the NWS Baltimore/Washington Weather Forecast Office in Sterling, VA. The move means that NWS Baltimore/Washington will now handle NWS forecasts and warnings for all Maryland counties west of the Chesapeake, along with Cecil. NWS Mount Holly will continue to handle forecasts and warnings for Caroline, Kent, Queen Anne’s and Talbot counties while NWS Wakefield, VA. (Hampton Roads area) will continue to serve Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester counties.

“The I-95 corridor often defines where weather changes in Maryland, so to have that area served by one office will provide ease of coordination,” said Russ Strickland, Executive Director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. “We have terrific partnerships with all four of the forecast offices currently serving Maryland and this consolidation will further improve our joint operations and communications with these three offices moving forward.”

Typically, MEMA coordinates weather calls with all four NWS offices, local emergency managers and state agencies in advance of major events like hurricanes, winter storms or election day, but moving forward, three NWS offices will participate.

“This transfer will allow us to meet the needs of our state and local emergency management partners in Maryland, and provide more streamlined forecast and warning services from the Chesapeake Bay to the mountains of Garrett County in western Maryland," said James E. Lee, Meteorologist-in-Charge of NWS Baltimore/Washington.

Garrett County had been a part of the Pittsburgh office since the 1990s, in large part, because  the doppler radar at that NWS office better covered the area. However, improvements in technology now allow for easier sharing of weather data between offices. So NWS Baltimore/Washington is well equipped to handle forecasts and warnings for Maryland’s westernmost county, using all NWS doppler radars and local observations.

“In developing our Hazard Mitigation Plan and our county-wide Emergency Response Plan, we have found that severe winter weather is Garrett County's highest threat,” said John Frank, Director of Garrett County Emergency Management. “By condensing NWS stations across Maryland, faster weather alerts will provide better situational awareness for our dedicated volunteers and staff to serve Garrett County's citizens and visitors.”

One of the benefits of adding Cecil County to NWS Baltimore/Washington is that both shores of the Susquehanna River will receive forecasts and warnings from the same office, since flood risks tend to be similar from the same weather event.

“This move to the Baltimore/Washington Weather Forecast Office will help streamline forecasts and strengthen the weather products in Maryland, specifically when it comes to the Interstate 95 corridor,” said Richard K. Brooks III, Director of the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services. “It will really help in creating a common weather picture along such a vital transportation route in Maryland.”

As part of the change, the National Weather Service will be offering free on-line SKYWARN weather spotter classes in both Garrett and Cecil countries next week. The Garrett County class will be on Nov. 17 and the Cecil County training will be on Nov. 18, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

For more information about this change, please visit the Baltimore/Washington Forecast Office news headlines.