11.2 Ground Zero: The Challenges of Deploying for an Unprecedented Event

Thursday, 16 January 2020: 12:00 AM
153C (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Justin Pullin, NWS, Tallahassee, FL

Hurricane Michael was only the fourth landfalling Category 5 Hurricane in U.S. history and the first since Hurricane Andrew in 1992. In the 26 year period between these storms, the National Weather Service (NWS) landscape has changed significantly with Decision Support Services (DSS) becoming a high priority within the agency. Among the new duties associated with DSS, embedding meteorologists in Emergency Operations Centers (EOC’s) for major weather events and incidents has become a common practice. While a deployment to a directly impacted county is not unprecedented for the NWS, the three deployments from NWS Tallahassee for Hurricane Michael are unique in the fact that they are the first NWS deployments for a Category 5 Hurricane for the agency. Each meteorologist was strategically deployed to maximize our direct partner support across the region as Michael rapidly intensified and approached the northern Gulf Coast. One of these deployment locations was in Bay County, Florida, ground zero for Hurricane Michael. The challenges associated with messaging the intensity forecast for Michael were numerous. However, managing the logistics and challenges of the deployment itself was also vital to successful supporting the NWS partners. Skills such as stress management and emotional intelligence became as important as the scientific knowledge and communication skills demonstrated by the deployed meteorologist to fulfill the mission of the deployment. This presentation will discuss the logistics involved in the Bay County deployment, as well as the challenges faced and lessons learned.
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