Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center since the season of Isaac and superstorm Sandy in 2012, is leaving just before the 2017 season cranks up to become an on-air hurricane expert at the Weather Channel.
Knabb, the fourth director at the Miami-based agency since Max Mayfield retired in 2007, plans to start his new job in Atlanta on May 15.
During Knabb’s tenure he oversaw improvements in forecasting and hazard alerts, including new storm-surge watch and warning communications and increased accuracy in mapping the track and intensity of hurricanes.
“I am moving on to a new and exciting opportunity that will not only allow me to spend less time traveling and more time at home with family, but extensive time in the studio at The Weather Channel focusing on hurricane and disaster safety communication that has become my greatest passion,” said Knabb, who worked at the channel from 2010 to 2012.
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“In my new job, I look forward to utilizing all of the innovative products and warnings that we developed at the National Hurricane Center during the past several years. I am as determined as ever to help prepare the nation in advance and to keep the public safe and resilient when the next hurricane strikes.”
In 2016, Knabb guided the center during the most active season since 2012. There were 15 named storms and seven hurricanes, including Hermine and Matthew. No Category 3 or higher hurricanes struck the U.S. during his years in charge.
Knabb was an innovative leader, said National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini.
“Under his watch, NHC launched several new decision support tools to help America prepare for and respond to hurricane threats,” Uccellini said. “He expanded relationships with emergency managers and the media, and has been a respected U.S. ambassador within the international weather community. We look forward to working with him as a champion for building a weather-ready nation in his new role in the private weather industry.”
Ed Rappaport, deputy director of the hurricane center for 17 years, will serve as acting director for the season that starts June 1 while a search is conducted for a permanent director. The center says it doesn’t expect freezes in federal hiring to affect its ability to name a new director after this year’s hurricane season.
Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel tweeted: “Beyond excited to have @NHC Director back @weatherchannel as our expert! His dedication to the science and protecting lives is second to none!”