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WEDNESDAY, JULY 25, 2007
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Weather service honors area man with Cline Award

By Emily Peck
epeck@decaturdaily.com 340-2440

The Earth rumbles beneath a churning sky.

"Take cover!" says a man on your TV screen.

Many work hard both on and off the camera to tell you what Mother Nature is doing.

An area man was honored Tuesday for his efforts. The National Weather Service presented Lary Burgett with the Isaac M. Cline Award.

"The Cline Award is the highest honor the National Weather Service can give," said meteorologist-in-charge Michael Coyne during a ceremony in Huntsville. "Only a handful are given every year to those who go above and beyond their normal work duties."

Forecasters at the Huntsville office nominated Burgett, who works as observation program leader. He won at both the local and regional levels before receiving the national honor.

The award is named after Isaac Cline, who is credited with saving thousands of lives during the Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900. Only eight Cline Awards are given each year.

U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, read a statement congratulating Burgett into the Congressional Record. Steven Cooper, acting director for the Southern Region of the Weather Service, presented the award to Burgett.

"You never dream of something like this happening," Burgett said. "You think, 'I'm just doing my job.' "

Burgett began studying meteorology on Chanute Air Force Base in Illinois in 1967. He traveled to Texas, California and Japan before beginning a career with the Weather Service in 1974.

Burgett came to Huntsville four years later.

As Huntsville's safety officer, he built "an exemplary safety program," said Cooper.

Burgett also played a key role in modernizing the Weather Service's Cooperative Observer Program. It consists of more than 11,000 volunteers who collect data on temperature, precipitation and climate change.

Burgett said the most challenging event he had experienced at the Weather Service was on Nov. 15, 1989.

"That was a long day," he said. "We issued a lot of warnings before the tornado actually touched down."

The storm at Huntsville killed 21 and injured 463. It did more than $250 million worth of damage.

Burgett's achievement marks the second time the Huntsville office has been recognized with the Cline Award. Co-recipients Chris Darden and Bill Schaub accepted the award in 2004.

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