Hurricane Center's Chief 'Reassigned'

MIAMI (AP) _ The new director of the National Hurricane Center was temporarily reassigned Monday, amid calls from about half his staff that he be ousted for undermining the American public's confidence in the center's forecasts. More than 20 of Bill Proenza's nearly 50 staff members signed a statement last week urging U.S. officials to dismiss him. They said Proenza undermined the public's confidence by exaggerating the forecasting problems scientists would face if the satellite failed. They were worried the consequences would actually hurt their forecasting abilities.

Proenza insisted he was only trying to ensure that his forecasters had the best tools and adequate support.

He was to be replaced by Deputy Director Ed Rappaport, center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said. Feltgen declined to say how long the temporary reassignment would last.

Rappaport declined to comment on his appointment. A message left by The Associated Press on Proenza's cell phone was not immediately returned.

Anson Franklin, a spokesman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees the center, said Proenza is still a NOAA employee, but he would not provide details about his status, citing privacy laws.

Proenza assumed the job in January, replacing longtime director Max Mayfield.

Rappaport has been with the hurricane center since 1987. He was appointed deputy director in 2000.

"The staff is very focused on the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season and everybody's ready to move forward,'' Feltgen said.