Federal Faces: Andrea Bleistein, National Weather Service

Andrea Bleistein

Weather-Ready Nation road map execution manager, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Contrails from jet planes passing overhead intersect the National Museum of Art in Washington, Thursday morning, April 17, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

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Best known for: With an increase in the number of deadly and costly severe weather events, the Weather Service has been trying to provide better and faster information.

Bleistein is playing a key role in helping the agency meet its goal. She is shepherding a long-term plan designed to improve the way the Weather Service does business and enhance its ability to save lives and property. As a manager supporting the agency’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative, Bleistein assists, and in some cases, prods the staff to implement the outlined long-term changes. This includes making new investments in science and technology, creating pilot projects to provide better assistance to states and localities, coming up with innovative ways to use social media, identifying new research and finding ways to support the workforce.

Bleistein said this may involve helping to set up, evaluate and expand initiatives such as dispatching a meteorologist to a city bracing for a severe storm. Or it might mean collaborating with technical staff to make sure technology is working well.

To hone forecasting and response methods, Bleistein helped set up six community-based pilot projects on the Gulf Coast and in the South and Mid-Atlantic. The projects are testing communication and support for urban and coastal areas and looking at how regional and national levels make decisions about responding to severe weather. The Weather Service also is working to keep up with modern information distribution. During a recent outbreak of tornadoes, Bleistein said the Weather Service used Twitter and other social media to provide public alerts, helping people prepare earlier to avoid danger.

Government service: Bleistein has worked for the Weather Service since 2002, mostly in federal positions, with the exception of 14 months as a private-sector contractor for the agency. She started as a meteorological aide and has held several other jobs, including physical science technician, meteorologist, project manager and policy adviser.

Motivation for service: Bleistein’s interest in weather forecasting began with her father. He’d see a thunderstorm coming and beckon her to open the windows and watch as it approached. She started in college as an engineering major but switched to meteorology and “never looked back,” she said.

Biggest challenge: Many activities that Bleistein orchestrates require organizational and cultural change and, for any agency, that is often a difficult process that requires adjustment and causes tension. In addition, recent federal budget challenges are making it difficult for the Weather Service to keep pace with demands.

Quote: “I am so proud to work for the National Weather Service. I came to know this agency as a young girl who had an interest in the weather, and I am now in a position to influence its continued success.”

— From the Partnership

for Public Service

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