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Hurricane center chief to retire June 1

Saturday - 1/14/2012, 3:16pm  ET

By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) - National Hurricane Center Director Bill Read, who took over the forecasting agency during a time of turmoil and leaves it much calmer, announced Saturday he will retire effective June 1.

Read, 62, said he never intended to stay in the position he has held since 2008 for longer than five years.

"I will have been in charge just shy of four and a half years on June 1," Read said in a letter to hurricane center staff and managers at its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "I had no idea I would ever be considered for such an honor. It's been quite a ride and I'm blessed to hit the exit ramp in my career after working with you all."

Read replaced Bill Proenza, who stirred controversy by repeatedly and publicly criticizing federal officials for what he considered inadequate funding for accurate storm forecasting and failure to replace an aging weather satellite. At one point, most senior and top-line managers at the hurricane center demanded in writing that Proenza be relieved of his duties, contending he was undermining public confidence in their work.

Proenza left the job after only six months. He had replaced the popular Max Mayfield, who was well known around the country because of his frequent TV appearances during major storms such as Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma in 2005.

Read's tenure has been far less contentious and, although dozens of tropical storms have formed in the Atlantic Ocean since his appointment, no major hurricanes have struck the U.S. mainland since late 2005.

"Bill has provided superb leadership at the National Hurricane Center as 63 tropical systems formed across the Atlantic basin, including two of the more active seasons on record," said Jack Hayes, director of the National Weather Service. "Bill's departure leaves a noticeable void to fill."

A search for Read's successor will begin immediately.

Read said he chose June 1 in part because it marks the start of the 2012 hurricane season, meaning his replacement will initially tackle those hectic duties and then move into the off-season aspects of the job armed with storm experience. Read also said he has unspecified business opportunities that become available in the summer.

Read has worked in the military or government since 1971, when he joined the U.S. Navy and later became part of the Navy's Hurricane Hunters team. He joined the National Weather Service in 1977 and rose to become meteorologist in charge of the Houston-Galveston office in Texas from 1992 to 2007.

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(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)