DUCK, N.C. — Doctor Bill Lapenta, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), tragically died when he drowned off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It was believed the 58-year-old was on vacation.
National Weather Service director Louis Uccellini expressed the impact of the loss on Twitter, posting a brief but emotional message:
Around 4:22 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 30, an off-duty ocean rescue supervisor alerted emergency authorities after seeing what he thought was a swimmer in distress. Duck Surf Rescue, Duck Fire and Police and Dare County EMS responded within minutes.
First responders pulled an unresponsive Lapenta from the water and immediately performed life-saving measures. He was pronounced deceased on scene after measures were unsuccessful.
The exact causes of Lapenta’s death are unknown, but authorities say surf conditions and a rip current in the area likely contributed.
Dr. Lapenta began his work for NOAA in 2008, starting as the deputy and acting director of the NCEP Environmental Modeling Center before taking on the role as director of NCEP as a whole in 2014. Lapenta also worked at NASA for 20 years.
According to NWS, he is survived by his wife, Cathy, who is also a meteorologist, and their two children.