Hatteras and Ocracoke residents – and others on the Outer Banks and up and down the East Coast -- were bereft when they got the news from Frank last weekend.
Of course, news from Frank is never good news, but this was particularly startling news.
In an e-mail, with “Tropics/Important notice” in the subject line, Frank broke the news that he is going to retire.
If you aren’t an island resident, you are probably wondering who the heck Frank is. And if you do live here, you probably know what “news from Frank” means, but you probably have never met Frank and don’t know exactly who he is.
Just plain “Frank,” as he is known to all of us, is Franklin Rosenstein, who lives in Waldorf, Md., and owns a condominium in Hatteras village.
Frank Rosenstein is a meteorologist. He retired today after 33 years with the National Weather Service, the last 23 of them with the Hydrometeorological Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md.
Frank is also somewhat of a folk hero on Hatteras and Ocracoke islands.
It was always worrisome to find a “news from Frank” e-mail in your inbox, but getting them became very important to us.
We heard from Frank only when a tropical system or northeaster was threatening, but we were happy to get the e-mails in which Frank gave us his take on an approaching weather threat, often comparing it to past storms.
The thought of not getting them is unsettling to us, to say the least. How will we face storms without news from Frank?
The e-mail Alex Risser, president of Outer Beaches Realty, sent to Frank after he got the news is typical.
Hello, Frank,” Risser wrote, “I don't know if we ever met, but you have been an instrumental part of Outer Beaches Realty's hurricane planning and preparation over the years. You have helped us manage over 5,000 people per week as storms have formed and headed our way. Your expertise and insight have been almost ALWAYS on target. We have come to rely heavily on your forecasts and continued to be amazed at your premonitions.
“Sounds like lots of golf and fishing are in your near future -- enjoy every second of it. When you get to Hatteras again, please stop in. You're somewhat of a hero to our management team. Would love to buy you lunch, a beer, or more.”
In an interview this week, Frank says not to worry. We will still hear from him but not as regularly and perhaps not in as much detail as he managed when he was on the job at GPC doing medium-range forecasts for the entire U.S. and looking at weather out three to seven days from his desk at HPC.
He also said he is really surprised – and somewhat embarrassed -- by all of the e-mails he has received from far-away folks this week.
Often, an e-mail from Frank was the first many of us had heard about a looming storm. His messages gave us extra time to watch and prepare.
Hurricane Irene was a good example of Frank’s advance warnings and advice to us. Here’s an abbreviated chronology of the e-mails that began 11 days before the Aug. 27 Hurricane devastated parts of Hatteras Island and cut two new inlets.
Aug. 16. Frank sends an e-mail about a tropical wave coming off the African Coast. “This one looks very serious whether...and unless it slides offshore, I would bet Irene will end up being a retired name.
Aug. 22. After four days off from work, Frank is back at his desk and warning us that “the target is North Carolina…If I was asked to pick a spot for landfall at this time I would pick the Crystal Coast area near Cape Lookout and coming out east of Virginia Beach.’
Aug. 23. Frank says this could be serious and urges us to “watch closely the NHC forecast track and intensity over the next couple of days along with local NWS office warnings.”
Aug. 24. Frank e-mails that the current track may take the hurricane offshore.
Aug. 25. Frank sends us an ominous e-mail that still gives me chills when I read it. Here is part of what it said:
This will be the last that I write.
As you have seen, the Outer Banks is now the target. All guidance has shifted well to the west. Hurricane model guidance, which I consider to be not very good at best beyond a 72 hour forecast, is now converging west towards the better global forecast models that we use every day. The farther west of these ECMWF and Ukmet remain west closer to Cape Lookout. Current NHC forecast has come more west with a landfall on Portsmouth or Ocracoke. It could still be farther west or just offshore but a convergence is beginning and it is not good.
“For Outer Banks... This appears to be the Big One
Projected NHC forecast is the worst possible trajectory track for this region. A landfall between Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras brings in the strongest surge directly in front of the eye and to the right. Marine wave guidance is in the 45-50 foot range for just offshore seas. As the storm crosses the sound or even if it's just offshore, as Northeast winds become more North and then Northwest, there will be a terrific soundside slosh back to the island. Expect both oceanside flooding and then strong soundside flooding late Saturday night and early Sunday as piled up water from the west and southwest portions of Pamlico Sound from the strong onshore flow is then driven eastward as winds become more North and Northwest. I would expect flooding in all of the Outer Banks villages
This is the type of storm that cuts new inlets, mainly by weakening the narrow portions of the island and then breaching it from the strong soundside flooding. This is typical and has happened for eternity. It’s basically how most inlets are made. I still think this is close to the 1944 hurricane type. But for recent memory, consider this to be a combined potential of Isabel and Emily…. Rain in the 6-10 inches range. This will occur on the beginning of a new moon phase which will enhance tidal potential somewhat along with high tide occurring Saturday evening/early night near the time of projected landfall or closest proximity. This adds to the ocean surge factor. I would not be surprised that we have several new inlets come Sunday – hopefully, more typical small ones not on the scale of Isabel inlet.
For some guidance as to what to do...consider the effects of the worst that you have seen or been in or been told about and plan on that.
Good bye and good luck.
Well, Frank was sure right about Hurricane Irene, which did make landfall at Cape Lookout. And the name has been retired.
Frank Rosenstein, 64, was born and raised in southern Maryland. He says he’s been interested in meteorology since he was a youngster, but he did not start working for the National Weather Service until he was 31.
Right out of high school, he joined the Marines during the Vietnam War. When he left the Marines, he worked for a few years in agricultural chemical sales. He says it was an easy job, but he didn’t think the company had much of a future.
He enrolled in St. Mary’s College in Maryland under the GI bill and then went on to study meteorology at the University of Maryland.
While he was still in college he got a part-time job with the National Weather Service Headquarters. He was transferred to the Washington, D.C., forecast office, which covered all of Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware, and part of West Virginia. There he worked in almost all aspects of weather forecasting, including public forecasts, marine forecasts, hydrology, and aviation weather.
In 1989, he transferred to the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, of which HPC is a part. He has worked as a marine forecaster and in heavy precipitation and basic weather, but for the past 18 years, he had done medium-range forecasts, which includes forecasts out three to seven days.
Frank and his wife, Sherry, have three grown daughters, four grandchildren and another on the way, and a yellow Labrador retriever, named Cassie.
The family started coming here in the late 1970s, because Frank, who is an avid fisherman and boater, wanted to fish for cobia in the Pamlico Sound. That led to offshore trips and they kept coming. In 2000, they bought a condo in Durants Station, which was destroyed three years later by Hurricane Isabel and then rebuilt.
His messages to folks on Hatteras about storms began in the early ‘90s with a few phone calls he would make if he saw something really threatening on the horizon. Mostly he called his fishing buddies at Pelican’s Roost tackle shop and Teach’s Lair Marina.
When folks started e-mailing later in the decade, he switched to that method of communication, which is probably what has made his following swell to what must be hundreds, if not thousands of folks.
People started asking Frank to be added to his list. And, in addition, people, like me, began developing their own “Frank” group e-mails that included friends here and elsewhere, family, employers and employees, and colleagues.
It would not surprise me in the least bit if half or three-quarters of Hatteras Island residents now get news from Frank.
Frank’s e-mails usually cover the places he has friends – the North Carolina coast, Maryland, Virginia, and southern Florida.
He says his emails are no different than what HPC puts out – and often included links to HPC’s medium-range forecast, but he personalized it. And he added the historical perspective, comparing a looming threat to storms of the past. He did that, he said, “because many people didn’t live here then or even weren’t born then.”
He sends e-mails only for extreme weather, he said, to give folks a few more days’ notice than they might get from local forecasts. Frank noted that a local long-range forecast might call for rain and wind seven days down the road, but the forecast might not yet warn about gale-, storm-, or hurricane-force winds.
He also notes that each forecast is written by a single meteorologist, and that “every forecaster has a different opinion.” So he’s just sharing his.
He usually stops sending the e-mails as the local forecasts start focusing more on a storm.
His e-mails won’t stop but won’t be as frequent or detailed he said because he won’t be sitting at his HPC desk with many weather products at his finger tips and multiple screens on which to view them. All the information, he noted, is available on the Internet, but it’s in different places, so it will take him more time and effort to send his messages.
And he has also agreed to write an occasional weather column for The Island Free Press.
Frank’s predictions, we have learned, are eerily on the mark far out in front of weather events. He has really nailed the larger storms, such as hurricanes Isabel and Irene, and some major northeasters.
However, he admits he misses some.
One he missed that he’s still embarrassed about, he says, was Hurricane Alex in 2004. The storm was not much of anything when Frank left HPC for three or four days off, and it blossomed quickly into a minor tropical storm and then a hurricane overnight before it came ashore, bringing serious soundside flooding.
In Frank’s defense, everyone missed this one – other meteorologists and local emergency managers, who did not call to evacuate Hatteras or Ocracoke.
Anyway, when the next storm comes, we won’t be asking as we usually do, “What does Frank think?”
He did say that, even though he won’t be at his desk next week, we probably don’t have to worry about Ernesto.
Goodbye and good luck to you, Frank. Enjoy your retirement, but don’t forget us!
SOME OTHER COMMENTS ABOUT FRANK’S NEWS
“I was one of those who didn't know Frank personally but he always got my attention the minute I saw a message from him in my email inbox. It was almost like having a higher being advising me of events to come.....and without exception I listen to the advice of a higher being especially when he sends me email.”
--Buddy Swain, Hatteras
“Bummer. What a great asset Frank has been to us. He will be missed.
--Tony McGowan, Ocracoke
I am devastated. His info was always accurate and it was so helpful to have an extra week to prepare as compared to the public weather reporting. I hope he has the very best of retirements. He has certainly earned it as far as Outer Bankers are concerned.
--Jim Boyd, Nags Head
“We will miss hearing from you but will always be grateful for your concern and your guidance over the years. You gave us the most accurate forecasts and allowed us to formulate plans when there was always so much chatter.
“Thank you for your public service ... And for caring enough to communicate with us.”
--Lynne Foster, Hatteras
Are you planning on changing your address to the Durant Station for the rest of the summer? Now you can come down with the rest of us and see just how close your weather analysis is. Thanks, for all the info over all the years. We will all miss that personal touch you always put in there.”
--Tom Bibbey, Hatteras
An impending storm always brings with it a high level of anxiety. Where will it hit? How long do we have before it gets here? What will be its strength? These and several other very anxious thoughts are all jammed together when faced with the unknowns of a large storm. Frank’s timely and almost unerringly accurate reports went a long way to reduce that anxiety for me, especially when I was off the island on business travel. While they were chock full of details I never completely understood, they did answer a lot of my questions and allowed me to better prepare for the storms on Hatteras. He will be greatly missed.
--Stuart Bills, Frisco
“This is the best email you have sent us since it says all is well and that you are now retiring without sending us dreaded news that storm development is possible. We will miss your reports. They could be scary, but they made it possible to react better with the events coming our way. I do hope you continue to visit Hatteras Island and will stop by and stick you head in on your next visit. Enjoy your retirement and great health and happiness to you.
--Frank Folb, Frank & Fran's, Avon