Session 8B.5 Weather decision support and societal impacts at a large outdoor venue—a case study from the 2010 Beale Street Music Festival

Tuesday, 12 October 2010: 2:30 PM
Grand Mesa Ballroom D (Hyatt Regency Tech Center)
Jon W. Zeitler, NOAA/NWS, New Braunfels, TX; and R. Okulski and J. Howell

Presentation PDF (80.8 kB)

The Beale Street Music Festival is held annually the first weekend in May along the banks of the Mississippi River in Memphis, TN. It is common for 40-60,000 people to attend the Festival daily, and for rain to occur at some point during the three-day event. However, the 2010 Festival coincided with a record-breaking, multi-day tornado and flood event, prompting a delayed start time and cancelation of the last two hours of the Festival performance on Saturday, May 1. Decision support activities for public safety during the event from the NWS Memphis Weather Forecast Office included a change from on-site to remote support, due to the higher priority NWS mission requirement of issuing warnings to protect lives and property. Firsthand observations of societal impacts on those attending the event were documented, including the evacuation of the event in 20 minutes as a tornadic supercell approached the Festival. These firsthand observations both supported and refuted conventional wisdom and results from previous limited studies of societal impacts. Specifically, environmental cues, pre-existing sheltering plans, first responder personnel in place, and pre-event forecasts and outreach produced positive results. In contrast, lack of traffic control and last-minute notification for the event attendees had negative impacts. Use of cell phones (particularly smart phones) and civil defense sirens produced mixed positive and negative results. This presentation will review the decision support activities and societal impacts of this event, and describe the best practice guidelines for large, outdoor public events that were developed as a result.
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