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E. Don Sarreals

Meteorologist E. Don Sarreals was born on September 22, 1931 in Winston Salem, North Carolina to parents Espriela Sarreals and Sadie Scales. While still a young child, Sarreal’s family migrated to New York City. He attended New York City Public School No. 46 and New York City Junior High School No. 164 before graduating from Bronx High School of Science in 1949. Sarreals went on to earn his B.S. degree in meteorology from the City Colleges of New York in 1955 and his his M.S. degree in meteorology from New York University in 1958.

Before his career as a meteorologist began, Sarreals served in the U.S. Army in 1954 and worked as a part-time lecturer while earning his graduate degree. In 1961, Sarreals began his career as a weather radar supervisor in the National Weather Service (NWS) New York Forecast Office. In 1976, Sarreals accepted a position as the television meteorologist for the National Broadcasting Corporation’s WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., from 1969 to 1975, while concurrently serving as president and consultant for Storm Finders, Inc. As the dissemination meteorologist for the NWS Headquarters from 1976 to 1980, Sarreals helped to develop the nation’s first government-funded radio working system, NOAA Weather Radio. Sarreals also worked as the television meteorologist for the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting. From 1980 to 1992, Sarreals was assigned as chief of Operations and Requirements for the Next Generation Weather Radar Project (NEXRAD). In 1984, Sarreals was appointed chairman of the Working Group for Doppler Radar Meteorological Observation. Sarreals also served as a staff member in the NWS Modernization Division, and as as assistant federal coordinator for DOC/NOAA/NWS Affairs in the Office of the Federal Coordination for Meteorological Service.

Sarreals is a fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, a recipient of the Ward Medal for proficiency in meteorology, and he is a member of the American Meteorological Society. Sarreals is also the author of the Federal Meteorological Handbook No. 1: National Weather Radio Operations supervised the development of Federal Meteorological Handbook No. 2: Doppler Weather Radar Observations. For his contributions and accomplishments, Sarreals was selected for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Black Americans.

E. Don Sarreals was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 15, 2013.

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P.S. 46 Arthur Tappan School

Junior High School 164

Bronx High School of Science

City College of New York

New York University

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Favorite Season



North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Beaches, Southern United States

Favorite Quote

Oh My God!

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District of Columbia

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Favorite Food

Fish, Flounder

Short Description

Atmospheric scientist E. Don Sarreals (1931 - ) is a leading Doppler radar specialist for the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


National Weather Service Operations Branch

Nexrad Joint System Program Office

Working Group For Doppler Radar Meteorological Observation

National Weather Service Modernization Division

Office of Federal Coordinator For Meteorological Services

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Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of Don Sarreals' interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals lists his favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals talks about his maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals talks about his mother growing up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals talks about his father's upbringing</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals talks about his parents' personalities and who he takes after</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Don Sarreals describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals describes the sights and sounds and smells of growing up</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about growing up in New York (part 1)</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about growing up in New York (part 2)</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about his artistic talent</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about playing tennis</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about his experience at P.S.46 in Harlem, New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals describes what inspired him to become a meteorologist</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Don Sarreals talks about the process of naming storms</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals talks about the quality of weather reporting prior to the advent of advanced communication technologies</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals describes his experience during the 1938 New England hurricane</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals talks about his experience at Bronx High School of Science</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals talks about his studies at City College of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals talks about being drafted to the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals describes his experience in the U.S. Army</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Don Sarreals talks about his return to City College of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about his experience teaching at City College of New York</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about how he met his wife</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about why he chose not to write a thesis</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about his experience of being recruited by CBS and NBC</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals describes how he helped Air Force One land during a storm</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about being the first black professional meteorologist in the U.S.</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about his experience as a television meteorologist (part 1)</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Don Sarreals talks about his experience as a television meteorologist (part 2)</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about the ratings at Channel 4</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals describes his mentor, Richard Holgren</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about his company, Storm Finders</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about his professional activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about Doppler weather radar and the farmer's almanac</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about his professional activities</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals shares his advice for aspiring meteorologists</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals discusses global warming and the effects of climate change</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Don Sarreals talks about his family and his son's death</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Don Sarreals talks about his granddaughter's interest in meteorology</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Don Sarreals talks about how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="">Tape: 6 Don Sarreals describes his family photos</a>







Don Sarreals talks about his experience at Bronx High School of Science
Don Sarreals talks about his professional activities
Okay. So now did you have a favorite teacher in junior high school [Junior High School 164]?$$In junior high school no, I can't identify a single teacher but it was a blessing to be in the, in what they called the rapid advanced course where they--other words you went into greater detail you know in, on every concept whether it was you know English. I think we started to take language, I think it was Spanish. What--you went deeper into what they knew about science at that time. They made learning mathematics a little more difficult but you advanced yourself. And at that time when I was interviewed as I was coming near, into, near the end of junior high school the, I guess the person who was in charge of interviewing the graduating students asked me what I wanted to be and I told him I wanted to be a meteorologist and he was shocked. And I told him what I'm telling you today that I had read 'Storm' [George R. Stewart] and blessedly because I said that that's how I got into the Bronx High School of Science or else I would have been sent to another school.$$Okay. So this is what year? What are we talking about now, this is--?$$(Unclear).$$And you would have been what thirteen or fourteen?$$Yes, right at that age. (Unclear).$$So 1940--$$So maybe about 1945 before I graduated from junior high school something like that, that I was asked and so my name was put on the list of students for Bronx High School of Science. It was very, very competitive. It was one of the highly rated schools in the country and a very serious school. You know they taught science in a broad range, great depth. Other words, biology, chemistry, physics whereas an ordinary high school it might be limited. A student might only have to take one type of science course. There you had to take just about everything in science to get started so you would know what, how to make a decision some day in the future about what you wanted to do in science.$$Okay. So were there very many other students from your neighborhood that were able to go to Bronx High School?$$No, there were not. There were--it was scattered all over the city. I ran track with a young man, I can't remember his name. He lived in Brooklyn and years later I saw him at a tract meet. He went to Brooklyn College when I went to City College [CUNY]. You know and there was one young lady I think you know she lived in Harlem [New York]. I'm talking about African Americans but there were very, very few.$$Okay. So you mentioned three. Were there anymore than three you think there?$$Yes, but it was a large school and so you know you didn't interface with everyone. You know you went to school, you get there on time, walk into a class and go to the next class. And in my case two or three days a week, maybe I practiced track or cross country. But you--there were so many students in that school you couldn't interface with them all. So I said there were several young African Americans I think who ran track. I met them and there was a young black lady in my class and she told me where she lived in Harlem and so forth. But you didn't actually have time. This was a serious school. You didn't have time to socialize, stand around and socialize a great degree.$$Okay, all right. So now what--with the idea that you're going to become a meteorologist, what was your focus in terms of study at Bronx High School or was there a focus?$$Well in the Bronx High School of Science, of course you can't specialize in that but the idea is to try to get good grades in mathematics and physics because meteorology is really the movement of air particles. It basically comes down to really being physics. It is--there are particles in motion. We call them raindrops, we call them air particles and wind and so forth but actually you saw what is going to happen by the laws of physics so to speak. So physics was very important and mathematics if you wanted to become a physical scientist. It's a form of physical science in other words, meteorology.$$Okay. Now were there any special teachers there in Bronx High School for Science?$$No, I can't remember. The only one I remember is someone I didn't like. In biology on all my tests I got a 98 or a 99 and New York State had a test they called the Regent Test. It was state wide. And while I was taking that in biology, a professor was--a teacher, high school teacher looked over my shoulder. He said you have two wrong and I looked up at him, I said, I know. It's a little funny story there. I was studying for the New York State Biology Regents and my mother [Sadie Beatrice Scales] called me to dinner. On one page of the book there was a one celled you know creature drawn out and inside there were parts of his body and you were supposed to learn that. And my mother called me to dinner and I didn't move right away and then she said there will be no dinner if you don't come. So I got up and I went. And when I came back to the book I went from the left page to the right page, I didn't go back to the first page. And one question was right from where I stopped and at the bottom of the page a new subject started and in the first few sentences there was something written that was the second question and so I got 98 on the Biology Regents instead of a hundred. And speaking of teachers, she--as a term grade she only gave me 95. So I went to her and asked, I said what are you doing? I said I never--I got 98 on the biology regents and on some of my tests I got a hundred, some 98, 99 in her tests. And well her attitude was she had to give somebody a lower score so she gave it to me if you--I was black in other words.$$So she had to give somebody a lower score to (unclear)?$$She wanted to make somebody seem as the best in the class and I just about was. And nobody else got--no one else got a hundred, but I always regret not getting that 100 just for a lifetime achievement if nothing else. But it was doing well in biology that made me turn temporarily to a thought of being a doctor because I did very well meteor--in biology without even trying. And it was later I would turn back to meteorology.$$Okay.$$But in the Bronx High School of Science, it turned me to into wanting to be a doctor temporarily.$$Okay. Now you say there weren't many, there weren't really any teachers that you really liked that much at Bronx High School. What--how were you generally treated, you and the other black students?$$I was treated fairly. The classes were large. Classes were very large and so there wasn't time for them to be very personal. The only person who could be kind to you, there was a track coach, Sam Levinson for example would talk to you or something as a human being. But the classes were so intense. You walk in, you sat down and you did not waste a minute and so there wasn't time for you know personal considerations for example. You just got in there and learned all that you could and then take that home and do your homework.$$Okay, all right. So you ran track I know and did you participate in any other student activities or did you have time for that?$$No, I did not. Remember, I was a poor young boy. I ran track and cross country in the fall and that was it.$Okay, all right. Okay. So now from '76 [1976] to '80 [1980], it says that you were the TV meteorologist for the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting too, right?$$Yes. While I was working on NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] Weather Radio, the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting wanted to have an agricultural program but they wanted a professional meteorologist on there. So the director assigned me to appear on the show. Now I did receive funds from the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting but that was permitted because I paid my own travel, I paid for my own clothes, you know to appear on the air and so forth. And so for a number of years I appeared on 'Up On The Farm' and provided weather broadcasts. And I had a talent which they enjoyed. For example, when apples let's say were being harvested they would name this type of apple is 40 percent--the red apples, they're 50 percent, 30 percent harvested and they would give this to me as I walked in the door. An hour later I would have it memorized and so I could not only do the weather but I would give this agricultural information. The brain was working well then, that's what I--let's put it that way.$$So you're pretty, you had a pretty sharp mind.$$Right, right.$$Yeah, okay, able to hold a lot of information. Let me--tell us about, did you have anything to do with the Joint Doppler Operational Project?$$JDOP [Joint Doppler Operational Project], that, that's specifically not--I worked with--I've forgotten what JDOP did. I--after I left NOAA Weather Radio, I joined the next generation weather radar project. It was a multi-agency office for the development of the nation's Doppler weather radar system. JDOP I believe, was an organization out in Norman, Oklahoma that was working on various aspects of Doppler weather radar. I was with the project to develop the program, select a contractor and eventually build a system for the United States of America and that included the United States Air Force, the Federal Aviation Agency and of course the Weather Service to serve the people. But I was with the, what they call NEXRAD.$$Okay.$$And I was Chief of Operations and Requirements originally to define the requirements of all three agencies, get that information to the contractor so they could develop the system properly. Others who had that task failed. I also became Chief of Training Program Development so I had two jobs. And then The Weather Service was supposed to develop Federal Meteorological Handbook No. 11, but it turned out for some reason they said they weren't able to. So Tony Durham, the manager of the NEXRAD program said you're going to have to be chairman of this too. So I was supposed to have one job, I wound up with three but the Federal Meteorological Handbook when finished was said worldwide to be an excellent document.