Max Mayfield

Max Mayfield Image
Location of Interview
Collection Name

NOAA Heritage Oral History Project


NOAA Heritage Oral History Project aims to document the history and legacy of NOAA through compelling interviews with its leaders. These firsthand accounts provide an invaluable resource that preserves NOAA's significant contributions to environmental research and management, fostering a deeper understanding of NOAA's vital role in shaping our understanding of the Earth's oceans and atmosphere.

Date of Interview

Molly Graham

Principal Investigator

Max Mayfield was born on September 19, 1948, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He attended the University of Oklahoma, earning a Bachelor of Science in Meteorology. He began his career with the National Weather Service in 1972 and held various positions within the organization before becoming the director of the National Hurricane Center in 2000. Mayfield pursued further education at Florida State University, obtaining a Master of Science degree in Meteorology. During his tenure, he provided expertise and guidance during numerous significant hurricanes, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Mayfield gained recognition for his calm demeanor and informative briefings, which helped the public and emergency responders prepare for and respond to severe weather events. He retired from the National Hurricane Center in 2007 after 34 years of service but continued to be involved in meteorological education and outreach activities.

Scope and Content Note
May 12, 2023: The oral history interview with Max Mayfield covers his family history and early childhood experiences. Mayfield's father was born in Texas in 1900 and moved to Oklahoma in 1929. The family experienced the impact of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. Mayfield's father served in World War I and later became a school teacher and real estate agent. Mayfield's mother was born in Oklahoma and shared stories about the hard times and riding a horse to school. Mayfield pursued a meteorology career, working at the Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, where he learned about forecasting and experienced technological advancements. The interview also touches on Mayfield's personal life, including meeting his wife and their shared experiences. The interview provides insights into Mayfield's family history, upbringing, and career, offering a glimpse into the challenges and experiences that shaped his life. It also highlights the historical context of the Dust Bowl and World War I, as well as the technological changes in meteorology. The interview captures Mayfield's personal and professional journey, providing a comprehensive view of his life and the historical events that influenced it.

May 19, 2023: The interview with Max Mayfield covers his experience learning meteorology at the University of Oklahoma and his subsequent assignment to Fort Rucker, Alabama, in the Air Force. Mayfield discusses the year-long Air Force program, his meteorology training, and the tools and techniques he was taught. He also describes his role in supporting the Vietnam War, including operational forecasting and handling teletype machines. Mayfield shares anecdotes about his interactions with Dr. Robert Simpson and Dr. LaSeur and his experiences during major hurricanes such as Andrew and Katrina. Additionally, he talks about the media desk's coordination during hurricane events and the importance of effective communication of forecasts to decision-makers and the media. Mayfield reflects on the impact of Hurricane Katrina, the lessons learned, and the changes in his approach to work after the event. He also mentions the Hurricane Liaison Team, hurricane awareness tours, the WMO Hurricane Committee, and his travel experiences. 

November 3, 2023: This interview covers Mayfield's career trajectory from a satellite meteorologist to becoming a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center. The interview spans various topics, including Mayfield's early career at the National Hurricane Center, his experiences during Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, and his decision to step down in 2007. Mayfield discusses his role in emergency management, the establishment of the Hurricane Liaison Team, and his interactions with government officials during critical weather events. Additionally, the interview delves into Mayfield's media appearances, international work with meteorological committees, and his personal life, including his wife's career and family life.  Throughout the interview, Mayfield reflects on his career, the impact of his work, and his relationships with colleagues and family. The interview offers a comprehensive overview of Mayfield's career, his contributions to meteorology and emergency management, and the personal and professional aspects of his life.

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The NOAA mission is to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. The Voices Oral History Archives offers public access to a wide range of accounts, including historical materials that are products of their particular times, and may contain offensive language or negative stereotypes.

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