New methods of emergency response tested in the Gulf Coast

Date Posted: January 23, 2012

The National Weather Service’s New Orleans/Baton Rouge office today launched its new 24/7 emergency response desk and team of emergency response specialists who will provide forecasts, warnings, and timely decision support services during high-impact weather and or other disasters. A critical part of NOAA’s Weather-ReadyNationinitiative, these mobile weather and water forecasters are specially trained to work directly with emergency managers to enhance preparedness efforts in the region.

“Mobile meteorologists add tremendous value to the weather forecasting services we already provide in Louisiana,” said Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., deputy administrator, NOAA. “Their ability to produce timely, accurate and custom tailored forecasts should provide better information for better decisions, allowing officials to pre-position people and resources more effectively to mitigate the impacts of floods and other disasters.”

Emergency response specialists will serve as part of future incident command centers in the region and are skilled at handling a wide range of hazards. Rapid deployment of these forecasters is necessary and possible with the emergency response vehicle – a 38-foot trailer equipped with the latest radar forecast model and satellite information, and communication technology.  

The forecast office’s new emergency response desk is the first of its kind and one of a series of community-based Weather-Ready Nation pilot projects under development to help the nation better prepare for extreme weather. Other projects will be launched later this year in the south and mid-Atlantic.

The New Orleans/Baton Rouge forecast office, located in Slidell, La., serves 2.9 million people in 22 parishes in Louisiana and eight Mississippi counties.

“Weather-related damages have impacted our area to the tune of $150 billion in 25 years. We hope this pilot project will help the community reach the highest level of preparedness and demonstrate resilience to high-impact weather,” said Ken Graham, meteorologist-in-charge, New Orleans/Baton Rouge forecast office.

“In the wake of one of the most destructive weather year on record, this pilot project is an important step to increase weather-readiness in 2012 and in the future,” said Jack Hayes, Ph.D., National Weather Service Director.

Pilot projects like the one in New Orleans are a critical aspect of NOAA’s Weather-Ready Nation initiative. In addition to changes made within the weather service, NOAA is also leveraging a diverse network of partners critical to emergency response to participate in a national dialogue. The dialogue began in earnest last month at a national symposium in Norman, Okla. Recommendations from the symposium will be the topic of a Weather-ReadyNationTownHallMeeting on Jan. 23 during the American Meteorological Society annual meeting in New Orleans.