NWS Eastern Region Provides Decision Support for Super Bowl XLVIII

Date Posted: February 20, 2014
NWS Brownsville/Rio Grande Valley Forecaster Maria Torres with Pastor Abiel Ake at the Radio Esperanza studios in Edinburg, Texas

Amidst thousands of fans and a flurry of activity in the nation’s largest metropolitan area, the National Weather Service coordinated with emergency management operations for Super Bowl XLVIII, held February 2 at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. The Super Bowl is designated as a National Special Security Event and as such, support by NWS is dictated by law [PDD 62; P.L. 106-544].

Support for this year’s Super Bowl was especially challenging for a number of reasons, including the game’s location. This was the first Super Bowl played at a cold-weather stadium. In addition, the number of activities associated with the game in both New Jersey and New York City and an expected increase in air traffic in the already overcrowded airspace over New York City meant NWS had to cover a variety of several different areas and types of potential impacts in its support to emergency managers.

NWS Eastern Region Headquarters and the NWS New York, N.Y., Weather Forecast Office began planning for the event nearly a year in advance, just a few weeks after last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. The NWS New Orleans/Baton Rouge forecast office, which provided decision support for Super Bowl XLVII, shared valuable “lessons learned” and suggestions with the NWS offices involved in this year’s game.

The New York-based offices began working with the principal agencies responsible for coordinating local, state, and federal resources for the game, including the New Jersey State Police (the lead agency in New Jersey) and New York City Office of Emergency Management (the principal contact for NWS in New York City). The Federal Aviation Administration requested additional support for the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, or TRACON, facility for the week leading up to and the day after the game, in anticipation of increase air traffic and potential delays due to winter weather.

“By taking the time to attend multiple planning meetings, particularly early in the process, we were able to determine where and when our services would be needed,” said NWS Eastern Region Deputy Director Mickey Brown. “We put together a team to develop a plan for support, and routinely met to update and finalize the plan.”

Four separate locations required onsite support by NWS meteorologists:

  • The Public Safety Compound near Met Life Stadium: The PSC housed nearly two dozen local, state, and federal agencies responsible for public safety. The Incident Commander (a NJSP senior officer) was stationed at the PSC.
  • NYC OEM Emergency Operations Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.: NYC OEM requested 24x7 onsite support from NWS through the duration of the event. 
  • NYC OEM Mobile Command Vehicle, located in Times Square: OEM’s Command Vehicle served as the central location for field commanders tasked with keeping Times Square and surrounding areas safe during the events leading up to the Super Bowl. 
  • FAA’s New York TRACON: A significant increase in air traffic was expected during the week leading up to the Super Bowl in the already congested New York airspace. New York TRACON manages the movement of aircraft in and out of New York and onsite support to air traffic managers was critical to keeping FAA decision makers ahead of any potential delays due to weather. 
A total of 15 NWS meteorologists provided onsite decision support and another four were identified for backup. NWS onsite support began on Saturday, January 25, and ended on Monday, February 3. The onsite team worked 8-12 hour shifts, depending on their location. At the NWS New York, N.Y., forecast office, a Decision Support Services, or DSS, Coordinator assisted the onsite meteorologists with briefing packages, and served as liaison and facilitator between the forecast office and the onsite meteorologists.

“The DSS Coordinator shift was a great success,” said NWS New York, N.Y., Meteorologist-in-Charge Ross Dickman. “It allowed the onsite meteorologists to coordinate with a single person at the weather forecast office and it allowed the forecasters on duty to concentrate on their duties.”

NWS Eastern Region Director Jason P. Tuell added, “Onsite DSS starts with the weather forecast offices and river forecast centers. Our onsite folks need timely and accurate forecasts from the local office to provide quality information to decision makers. All onsite support is closely coordinated with our local offices.”

The successful decision support for Super Bowl XLVIII was a team effort. Met Life Stadium is on the western end of NWS New York’s area of responsibility, making collaboration between the neighboring forecast office in Mt. Holly, N.J., and the NWS New York Center Weather Service Unit (which provides specialized support to the FAA) more necessary than usual in order to present a consistent message to customers.

Meteorologists from other NWS offices, including NWS Eastern Region Headquarters, as well as the weather forecast offices in Charleston, W.V., Charleston, S.C., Gray, Maine, Sterling, Va., and the NWS Aviation Weather Center in Kansas City, also provided support. In addition, the NWS Weather Prediction Center kept a careful eye on the potential for winter weather in the Northeast, while the NWS Space Weather Prediction Center consulted on the potential for solar flares interrupting radio transmissions during the event. Administrative staff from the NWS New York, N.Y., forecast office and NWS Eastern Region Headquarters worked together to manage logistics and secure accommodations well in advance of the event.

The NWS customers and partners expressed their thanks for the support provided during the event, including NYC Commissioner of Emergency Management Joe Bruno. “Day in and day out the NYC Office of Emergency Management relies on the expertise of the National Weather Service to assist the city in making critical decisions whenever weather is involved,” Bruno said.

“You can tell how much they appreciate our onsite support, and I think we fill a need where standard products and services may lack details necessary to support these high-security events,” said Gordon Strassberg, meteorologist at the NWS Center Weather Service Unit in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., who provided onsite support to the New York TRACON during the event.