J4.2 Communication Challenges and Successes of Three Significant Winter Weather Events in Georgia

Thursday, 11 June 2015: 3:45 PM
304 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Jessica L. Fieux, NOAA/NWSFO, Peachtree City, GA; and K. Stellman, S. E. Nelson, T. D. Palmer, A. Baker, J. T. Deese, and L. Myers

A significant winter storm impacted north Georgia on 28 January 2014. This winter storm was unusual in that it occurred on a weekday with abnormally cold daytime temperatures well below freezing (< -3C). The NWS Atlanta Weather Forecast Office issued Winter Storm Warnings as early as the afternoon of 27 January with onset expected mid-morning on the 28th. Several email and webinar briefings were also provided. However, since snow was not falling at the time of key decisions early on the morning, many schools, businesses, and government agencies in the Metro area decided to conduct a normal work day. Snow began falling into subfreezing surface by midday Tuesday and precipitation quickly froze on the roads, stranding thousands of motorists, some up to 20 hours. Many motorists abandoned their vehicles, opting instead to walk to nearby businesses for shelter.

A second significant winter storm impacted the Southeastern states 11 - 13 February 2014. Heavy snow fell across the southern Appalachians, while an ice storm with accretions of up to 1.25 inches occurred from eastern Georgia into central South Carolina. In contrast to the 28 January 2014 winter weather event, schools, businesses and governments closed and motorists stayed off the roadways.

A year later, on 16 January 2015, drivers again felt impacts on the roadways from patchy areas of black ice. Although the potential for black ice was discussed in the NWS Atlanta Area Forecast Discussion, Hazardous Weather Outlooks and Special Weather Statements, some agencies were unaware of the threat and did not recognize these products could be used to communicate this particular hazard.

This presentation will focus on the merits and weaknesses of the Atlanta WFO message content and formats, as well as the expected or preferred methods to receive NWS messages by key decision makers. Changes made or planned after these events will also be discussed.

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