Technology and communication methods used to increase awareness and mitigate impacts during the devastating Ohio Valley winter storm on January 26-28, 2009
Storm damage estimates in the state of Kentucky alone soared to around $50 million with the Louisville metro area totaling approximately $2.1 million. Incredible damage to trees and power lines caused roughly 769,000 homes and businesses across Kentucky to lose power for as long as 3 weeks. At least 31 people died in Kentucky and southern Indiana from the effects of the storm. Commerce also was greatly affected due to closed roadways and impacts to air travel.
Despite disastrous and in some cases deadly impacts of the Ohio Valley 2009 winter storm, modern day technology employed during the event helped dampen and bring awareness to its effects. A plethora of model data in AWIPS (Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) was available to National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologists for pre-storm analysis, including a local WRF model used for mesoscale forecasting. These models as well as web-based ensemble model data prompted NWS Louisville forecasters to alert the public and NWS partners of the possibility of a major storm 72 hours in advance. These informational systems were critical during the event in providing updated model and observed data which led to better watch and warning information, including forecasts of precipitation types, amounts, and timing.
Because the storm was predicted to have destructive impacts, several communication methods covering a wide range of customers were implemented to relay critical watch and warning information. Several detailed conference calls were conducted with emergency managers, media, utility companies, and schools to greatly enhance their situational awareness, preparatory decision making, and required safety actions before and during the storm. Weather graphics, some GIS-based, containing detailed precipitation data were posted to the web for easy customer access. NWSChat software was used frequently to instant message crucial information back and forth between the NWS and media. Numerous mesoscale area forecast discussions (meso AFDs) and special weather statements also were issued by NWS Louisville to convey storm trends and the seriousness of the situation.
This presentation will describe atmospheric processes that led to this devastating storm. It then will concentrate on how modern day technology and communication methods along with forecaster innovation and proactivity helped increase public awareness and safety as well as mitigate the effects of the storm through a combined public-private partnership.