Tuesday, 16 January 2007: 1:45 PM
Increasing Societal Resilience to Winter Weather
206A (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
In many states in the U.S. severe winter storms can have greater impact on society than many other severe weather events, such as tornadoes and lightning. The National Weather Service (NWS) pays close attention to the winter storms and produces warnings for the areas at risk. These warning statements are developed for the general public and often do not reach most vulnerable individuals and communities. Working within the realm of the Weather and Society: Integrated Studies program within the Societal Impacts Program at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, this project focused on an analysis of winter related deaths and an identification of vulnerable societal groups. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was used to map spatial distribution of vulnerable population with the goal of developing detailed impact statements from the NWS that can be placed in weather warnings that highlight specific impacts that may help save lives. Initial analysis of societal vulnerability included winter weather related (i.e., winter storms, avalanches and hypothermia) deaths for the U.S. from 1985 to 2005. Two weather forecast regions in Colorado and Montana were selected for more detailed analysis and vulnerability mapping. These two study regions have similar weather conditions, but presented different types of populations (urban vs. rural) and different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. The outcomes of this study presented the framework which integrates societal information into winter weather warning process. A set of recommendations is being worked on for each forecast region on developing outreach, prevention and mitigation programs that increase societal resilience to winter weather. Also, the information is being used to develop detailed impact statements that can be used within a watch or warning to help save lives and property.