2.3 Hurricane Harvey—Societal Challenges for the Weather Enterprise

Monday, 13 January 2020: 11:00 AM
152 (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center)
Jeffry S. Evans, NOAA/NWS/WFO Houston, TX, Dickinson, TX; and L. Wood

Hurricane Harvey was the first category 4 storm to strike Texas in 56 years, and was the first ‘major’ hurricane to make landfall in the CONUS since 2005. Unfortunately, after landfall, Harvey only moved inland approximately 50-75 miles and stalled for two to three days before remerging over the Gulf and making a second landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border six days later. Throughout that stretch, Harvey’s rainbands produced historic amounts of rainfall and catastrophic flooding across the upper Texas coast from near Victoria eastward across Port Arthur/Beaumont. This flooding lasted for months and surpassed anything in recorded history at many sites, creating complex and unprecedented hydrological issues. In addition to record flooding, nearly all of southeast Texas endured continual and overlapping threats from tornadoes, tropical storm winds and storm surge for 4 to 6 consecutive days.

How do we get decision makers and the public to acknowledge, listen, believe and then properly respond to weather threats and impacts that they have never experienced? How do you message and prioritize overlapping threats with contradictory safety messages? How does a meteorologist remain focused on mission when their own families and property are being threatened? These were some of the questions that faced the weather enterprise as a whole as Hurricane Harvey, and its remnants, battered southeast Texas in late August of 2017.

This presentation will discuss the challenges in communicating the multiple, recurrent and overlapping threats of a storm like Harvey which persisted for nearly a week. We will also present some best practices and lessons learned from the weather enterprise around Houston as they dealt with making these communication decisions under continual stress and fatigue.

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