Posted: 4:56 pm Friday, May 18th, 2012

Hurricane Center names former staffer as new chief 

By Eliot Kleinberg

Posted 5 p.m. May 18, 2012

After two years on TV, Rick Knabb will return to government work to become director of the National Hurricane Center.

Knabb takes over what’s arguably the federal government’s most high-profile weather post on June 4, just three days after the start of the 2012 season.

“Rick personifies that calm, clear and trusted voice that the nation has come to rely on,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Administrator Jane Lubchenco said Friday in a release.


Knabb had been a senior hurricane specialist, and science and operations officer, for the hurricane center, then deputy director of a hurricane center in Honolulu, before leaving NOAA in May 2010 to be the on-air hurricane specialist for the Atlanta-based Weather Channel.

“I’m ready to reunite with the talented staff at the National Hurricane Center and to work with all of our partners to prepare everyone for the next hurricane,” Knabb said in the release.

He replaces Bill Read, who’d announced in January he’d be retiring after four years as Hurricane Center director. Read had been the center’s 10th director in its nearly half-century but the fourth in a turbulent 1-1/2-year period.


“As everyone here at FEMA wishes Bill the best in his new endeavors, we welcome the new partnership with Rick,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Craig Fugate said in a release.

Read took over soon after an unprecedented 2-week staff mutiny led to the ouster of Bill Proenza in July 2007, just six weeks into his tenure.

Proenza had prompted both praise and scrutiny after complaining that the National Weather Service was spending millions on an agency-wide birthday celebration and had no firm plans to replace the aging QuikSCAT satellite.

But hurricane center forecasters also had complained about Proenza’s management style and said he’d alienated the staff.

National Hurricane Center chiefs:
Gordon Dunn, 1965-67
Robert Simpson, 1967-73
Neil Frank, 1973-87
Bob Sheets, 1987-95
Robert Burpee, 1995-97
Jerry Jarrell, 1998-2000
Max Mayfield, 2000-07
Bill Proenza, January-July, 2007
Ed Rappaport (interim), July 2007-January 2008
Bill Read, 2008-2012